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Moderate Epistemic Relativism and Our Epistemic Goals

  • Jonathan M. Weinberg

Abstract

Although radical forms of relativism are perhaps beyond the epistemological pale, I argue here that a more moderate form may be plausible, and articulate the conditions under which moderate epistemic relativism could well serve our epistemic goals. In particular, as a result of our limitations as human cognizers, we find ourselves needing to investigate the dappled and difficult world by means of competing communities of highly specialized researchers. We would do well, I argue, to admit of the existence of unresolvable disputes between such communities, but only so long as there is a sufficient amount of fruitful exchange between them as well. I close with some speculation about when it is or is not legitimate to make an “appeal to discipline”: responding to another’s argument by saying something like, “we should do it this way, because we are philosophers (/linguists/psychologists/…), and that’s just what we do”.

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