Absolutism, Relativism and Metaepistemology

Erkenntnis 86 (5):1139-1159 (2021)
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This paper is about two topics: metaepistemological absolutism and the epistemic principles governing perceptual warrant. Our aim is to highlight—by taking the debate between dogmatists and conservativists about perceptual warrant as a case study—a surprising and hitherto unnoticed problem with metaepistemological absolutism, at least as it has been influentially defended by Paul Boghossian as the principal metaepistemological contrast point to relativism. What we find is that the metaepistemological commitments at play on both sides of this dogmatism/conservativism debate do not line up with epistemic relativism nor do they line up with absolutism, at least as Boghossian articulates this position. What this case study reveals is the need in metaepistemological option space for the recognition of a weaker and less tendentious form of absolutism, what we call “environment relativism”. On this view, epistemic principles are knowable, objective, and they can serve as the basis of particular epistemic evaluations, but their validity is relative to the wider global environment in which they are applied.

Author Profiles

J. Adam Carter
University of Glasgow
Robin McKenna
University of Liverpool


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