Practicing Relativism in the Anthropocene: On Science, belief, and the Humanities

London UK: Open Humanities Press (2018)
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Abstract
The book addresses a set of contemporary issues involving knowledge and science from a constructivist-pragmatist perspective often labeled "relativism." As it demonstrates, what that perspective implies are neither absurd claims nor objectionable positions but an ongoing alertness to contingency, complexity, and multiplicity that is both intellectually and ethically valuable. In an extended examination of recent writings by Bruno Latour, I indicate the increasing centrality of theological investments in his work. Discussing computational methods in literary studies and efforts to "integrate" the academic disciplines, I suggest that what distinguishes the humanities and the natural sciences are neither subject areas nor "methods" as such but fundamental epistemic orientations.. Finally, declining calls to reaffirm or rehabilitate philosophical realism in the face of denials of climate change, I suggest that the most illuminating perspectives for conceptualization and practice in the Anthropocene are precisely those labeled, but commonly mischaracterized as, “relativist.”
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Archival date: 2019-10-17
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