Stance Pluralism, Scientology and the Problem of Relativism

Foundations of Science: DOI: 10.1007/s10699-022-09882-w (forthcoming)
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Inspired by Bas van Fraassen’s Stance Empiricism, Anjan Chakravartty has developed a pluralistic account of what he calls epistemic stances towards scientific ontology. In this paper, I examine whether Chakravartty’s stance pluralism can exclude epistemic stances that licence pseudo-scientific practices like those found in Scientology. I argue that it cannot. Chakravartty’s stance pluralism is therefore prone to a form of debilitating relativism. I consequently argue that we need (1) some ground or constraint in relation to which epistemic stances can be ranked by degrees, and (2) some way to demarcate science from pseudo-science so that we know what epistemic stances are about. Regarding (1), I argue that empirical detectability can serve as the ground in relation to which epistemic stances are ranked by degrees. Regarding (2), I argue for ranking sciences on a continuum according to established institutional criteria, rather than attempting to draw a strict demarcation.

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Ragnar Van Der Merwe
University of Johannesburg


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