In Defence of Epistemic Relativism: The Concept of Truth in Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money

Proceedings of the 38th International Ludwig Wittgenstein-Symposium:300−302 (2015)
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Abstract

As one of the first modern philosophers, Georg Simmel systematically developed a “relativistic world view” (Simmel 2004, VI). In this paper I attempt to examine Simmel’s relativistic answer to the question of truth. I trace his main arguments regarding the concept of truth and present his justification of epistemic relativism. In doing so, I also want to show that some of Simmel’s claims are surprisingly timely. Simmel’s relativistic concept of truth is supported by an evolutionary argument. The first part of this paper outlines that pragmatic foundation of his epistemology. The second part of the paper shows that Simmel develops what today would be called a coherence theory of truth. He presents his coherentist view that every belief is true only in relation to another one primarily as a theory of epistemic justification. The third part turns to Simmel’s original way of dealing with the (in)famous self-refutation charge against relativism.

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Johannes Steizinger
McMaster University

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