Paul O’Grady
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 209
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Paul O'Grady clearly distinguishes five main kinds: relativism about truth, relativism about logic, ontological relativism, epistemological relativism, and, finally, relativism about rationality. In each case he shows what makes a position relativist and how it differs from a sceptical or pluralist position. He ends by presenting a thoroughly integrated position that rejects some forms while defending others. The book includes discussion of recent work by Putnam, Devitt, Searle, Priest, and Quine and offers a succinct survey of contemporary debates. This lively discussion of the issue will be welcome reading for all those involved in philosophical inquiry.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8373-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Paul O’Grady
  4. 1 Introduction to relativism
    (pp. 1-26)

    Looking back a century, one can see a striking degree of homogeneity among the philosophers of the early twentieth century in terms of the topics central to their concerns. More striking still is the apparent obscurity and abstruseness of those concerns, which seem at first glance to be far removed from the great debates of previous centuries, between realists and idealists, say, or rationalists and empiricists.

    The German philosopher Gottlob Frege (1848-1925) devoted his career to the foundations of mathematics and was rewarded with profound indifference from his fellow philosophers and mathematicians. The English philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) devoted his...

  5. 2 Truth and logic
    (pp. 27-52)

    Much of the negative reaction to relativism is connected to issues about truth and the apparent incoherence of attempting to relativize the notion of truth. The great majority of philosophers have taken for granted the idea that truth and falsity are absolute concepts, whatever else may be relativized. However, there have always been those who rejected this view, holding that truth is indeed relative. Some of these have offered penetrating and ingenious arguments as to how and why the notion of truth should be relativized.

    The idea of “truth” is intimately connected to a host of other concepts such as...

  6. 3 Ontological relativism
    (pp. 53-88)

    Ontology is that part of philosophy which investigates the fundamental structures of the world and the fundamental kinds of things exist. Terms like “object”, “fact”, “property”, “relation” and “category” are technical terms used to make sense of these most basic features of reality. Until Kant, there was widespread agreement on the framework for debates about ontology, and varying accounts of existence, essence, substance and property were articulated and defended. This involved some of the great debates of Western philosophy, for example about the status of universals. However, amid these differences were shared aims (finding out the fundamental nature of reality)...

  7. 4 Epistemological relativism
    (pp. 89-130)

    There are a multiplicity of different positions to which the term epistemological relativism has been applied. However, the basic idea common to all forms denies that there is a single, universal means of assessing knowledge claims that is applicable in all contexts. Many traditional epistemologists have striven to uncover the basic process, method or set of rules that allows us to hold true beliefs. Think, for example, of Descartes’s attempt to find the rules for the direction of the mind, Hume’s investigation into the science mind or Kant’s description of his epistemological Copernican revolution. Each philosopher attempted to articulate universal...

  8. 5 Relativism about retionality
    (pp. 131-170)

    Quite a number of writers have argued for alternative conceptions of rationality, but in many cases it is not clear what this means. A representative group of those views - taken from sociology of knowledge, anthropology, feminist theory and theology - will be discussed in this section. It will be argued that many of the “alternative” views presented can be accommodated within forms of relativism other than relativism about rationality - for example, as conceptual, ontological or epistemological relativism. Following this, a model for a non-relative account of rationality will be presented and defended. The subsequent three sections of the...

  9. 6 Evaluating relativism
    (pp. 171-182)

    Chapters 2-5 have examined relativism in a number of specific areas of philosophy. In Chapter 2 it was argued that it is incoherent to think of truth as being relative. The argument centred on the claim that the possibility of contradiction was essential to communication and argument. By holding to relative conceptions of truth, one rules out the possibility of contradiction and so endangers communication and argumentation. Because of the significance of contradiction, it furthermore became clear that the limits of logic are established in acknowledging it. One may have alternative systems of logic, but there is a presumption in...

  10. Guide to further reading
    (pp. 183-186)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-192)
  12. Index
    (pp. 193-196)