Scientific Perspectives, Feminist Standpoints, and Non-Silly Relativism

In Michela Massimi (ed.), Knowledge From a Human Point of View. Springer Verlag (2020)
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Abstract

Defences of perspectival realism are motivated, in part, by an attempt to find a middle ground between the realist intuition that science seems to tell us a true story about the world, and the Kuhnian intuition that scientific knowledge is historically and culturally situated. The first intuition pulls us towards a traditional, absolutist scientific picture, and the second towards a relativist one. Thus, perspectival realism can be seen as an attempt to secure situated knowledge without entailing epistemic relativism. A very similar motivation is behind feminist standpoint theory, a view which aims to capture the idea that knowledge is socially situated, whilst retaining some kind of absolutism. Elsewhere I argue that the feminist project fails to achieve this balance; its commitment to situated knowledge unavoidably entails epistemic relativism (though of an unproblematic kind), which allows them to achieve all of their feminist goals. In this paper I will explore whether the same arguments apply to perspectival realism. And so I will be asking whether perspectival realism too is committed to an unproblematic kind of relativism, capable of achieving scientific goals; or, whether it succeeds in carving out a third view, between or beyond the relativism/absolutism dichotomy.

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Natalie Alana Ashton
University of Stirling

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