Epistemic Pluralism, Epistemic Relativism and ‘Hinge’ Epistemology

  • J. Adam CarterEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Innovations in Philosophy book series (PIIP)


According to Paul Boghossian (2006, 73), a core tenet of epistemic relativism is what he calls epistemic pluralism, according to which (i) ‘there are many fundamentally different, genuinely alternative epistemic systems’, but (ii) ‘no facts by virtue of which one of these systems is more correct than any of the others’. Embracing the former claim is more or less uncontroversial—viz. a descriptive fact about epistemic diversity. The latter claim, by contrast, is very controversial. Interestingly, the Wittgenstenian ‘hinge’ epistemologist, in virtue of maintaining that rational evaluation is essentially local, will (arguably, at least) be committed to the more controversial leg of the epistemic pluralist thesis, simply in virtue of countenancing the descriptive leg. This paper does three central things. First, it is shown that this ‘relativistic’ reading of Wittgenstein’s epistemology is plausible only if the locality of rational evaluation (in conjunction with a reasonable appreciation of epistemic diversity) commits the Wittgenstenian to a further epistemic incommensurability thesis. Next, Duncan Pritchard’s (e.g. 2009; 2015) novel attempt to save the hinge epistemologist from a commitment to epistemic incommensurability is canvassed and critiqued. Finally, it is suggested how, regardless of whether Pritchard’s strategy is successful, there might be another very different way—drawing from recent work by John MacFarlane (2014)—for them hinge epistemologist to embrace epistemic pluralism while steering clear of epistemic relativism understood in a very specific way.


Epistemic relativism Hinge epistemology Disagreement Scepticism Epistemic pluralism Wittgenstein 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy, School of HumanitiesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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