Author Information: Adam Riggio, McMaster University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Riggio, Adam. “‘I Feel Like I’ve Heard All This Before,’ A Reply to Stenmark and Lukes.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 5 (2014): 73-76.
Please refer to:
- Stenmark, Mikael. “Relativism — a Pervasive Feature of the Contemporary Western World?” Social Epistemology (27 January 2014): doi:10.1080/02691728.2013.782590.
- Lukes, Steven. “ How Relativist Should We Be? A Reply to Stenmark.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 5 (2014): 13-16.
The question is almost inevitable in introductory classes in many humanities disciplines when an instructor begins to discuss the various ways in which we understand uncertainty about what is true and the nature of truth. A student, usually with a tinge of fear in her voice, asks, “But isn’t that relativism?”
Mikael Stenmark’s article is largely concerned with distinguishing different kinds of relativism, or at least different ways to understand it. Relativist accounts of knowledge and truth are usually raised as challenges to a social or political order that enforces a single account of the way the world is, as if it were the only valid account, the only account that is complete and true. The fear of those students who tremble at the prospect of a relativistic world is rooted in a basic human need for stability that we all, in a very basic sense, need. Those who are most troubled by relativist statements, or even statements that might give a naïve relativist some rope, are those who believe that knowledge must be grounded absolutely to be true. If knowledge in any way varies with physical, empirical, cultural, personal, or any other context, so this perspective says, then it was never knowledge, and was merely delusion. Unless knowledge has the stability and universality of “2+2=4,” it is not true knowledge. So speaks the most intense fear of any relativism. Continue Reading…