The Justificationist Roots of Relativism

  • I. C. Jarvie
Part of the Library of Philosophy and Religion book series (LPR)


Confronted with the diverse range of religious claims to truth one can affirm one of them, deny the rest, and thereby be a believer and a non-relativist; one can deny them all, and thereby be a nonbeliever and an anti-relativist; and one can affirm them all, each in its cultural place, without thereby being a believer: one is then a relativist. There are no other logical options. The two positions which interest me here are relativism and anti-relativism. At first glance they might seem symmetrical, or mirrors of one another: the relativist affirms what the anti-relativist denies. Yet beyond this simple relation of negation the two are as different as chalk and cheese. Relativism has a justificationist structure and an authoritarian epistemology to go with it. Anti-relativism, by contrast, can be formulated free from those deficiencies.


Capital Punishment Knowledge Claim Ordinary Language Cultural Relativism Moral Truth 
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© Wake Forest University 1995

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  • I. C. Jarvie

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