Relativism Defended

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I argue for a type of relativism that allows different people to have conflicting accurate representations of the world. This is contrary to the view of most Anglo-American philosophers, who would, with Paul Boghossian in Fear of Knowledge, deny that “there are many radically different, yet ‘equally valid’ ways of knowing the world.” My argument is not a metaphysical argument about the ultimate nature of the outside world, but a psychological argument about the mental processes of representation. The argument starts from a few principles of naïve (or folk) psychology, but is later extended to apply to mechanisms that do not have a “psychology.” Finally, I briefly discuss the anti-relativist impulse in philosophy, with particular reference to Boghossian’s example of non-scientific beliefs regarding Lakota origins. I argue that both we and the Lakotas have good reason to reject such beliefs while still remaining relativists. Being a relativist does not mean that you get to believe whatever you like.
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Archival date: 2017-12-08
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