Relativism, truth, and incoherence

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15 Scopus citations


There are many contemporary sources and defenders of epistemological relativism which have not been considered thus far. I have, for example, barely touched on the voluminous literature regarding frameworks, conceptual schemes, and Wittgensteinian forms of life. Davidson's challenge to the scheme/content distinction and thereby to conceptual relativism, Rorty's acceptance of the Davidsonian argument and his use of it to defend a relativistic position, Winchian and other sociological and anthropological arguments for relativism, recent work in the sociology of science, and Goodman's novel articulation of a relativism of worlds and of worldmaking, to mention just some of the contemporary loci of debate, all need to be addressed. So also do the plethora of relativistic arguments spawned by Kuhn and related literature in recent philosophy of science. Therefore, it cannot be said that there is no more to be said on behalf of epistemological relativism. Moreover, the positive task of delineating a defensible version of absolutism remains to be accomplished. Nevertheless, the defenses of relativism considered above do seem to have been successfully undercut. More specifically, the arguments for the incoherence of relativism are as compelling as ever, and have manifestly not been laid to rest by contemporary relativists. The basic Socratic insight that relativism is self-refuting, and so incoherent, remains a fundamental difficulty for those who would resuscitate and defend the ancient Protagorean doctrine or a modern variant of it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-259
Number of pages35
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences(all)


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