Three Kinds of Relativism

In Steven Hales (ed.), A Companion to Relativism. Blackwell (2011)
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Abstract

The paper looks at three big ideas that have been associated with the term “relativism.” The first maintains that some property has a higher-degree than might have been thought. The second that the judgments in a particular domain of discourse are capable only of relative truth and not of absolute truth And the third, which I dub with the oxymoronic label “absolutist relativism,” seeks to locate relativism in our acceptance of certain sorts of spare absolutist principles. -/- The first idea is well illustrated by the famous cases drawn from physics, but is ill suited for providing a model for the sorts of relativism about normative domains that have most interested philosophers. -/- The second idea – according to which it is the truth of certain judgments that is relative – seems subject to a very difficult dilemma. -/- The final idea provides a coherent model of cases like etiquette but is not plausibly applied to the moral or epistemic domains

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Paul Boghossian
New York University

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