The Justificationist Roots of Relativism
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.
KeywordsCapital Punishment Knowledge Claim Ordinary Language Cultural Relativism Moral Truth
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 1.W. W. Bartley III, The Retreat to Commitment (New York: Knopf, 1961).Google Scholar
- 8.See Popper’s British Academy Lecture, “On the Sources of Knowledge and of Ignorance,” reprinted in Objective Knowledge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972).Google Scholar
- 13.See Morris Ginsberg, On the Diversity of Morals (London: Heinemann, 1956), a book greatly influenced by L. T. Hobhouse.Google Scholar
- 20.Walter Kaufmann, Without Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to Autonomy (New York: P. J. Wyden, 1973).Google Scholar