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Motivations for Relativism as a Solution to Disagreements


There are five basic ways to resolve disagreements: keep arguing until capitulation, compromise, locate an ambiguity or contextual factors, accept Pyrrhonian skepticism, and adopt relativism. Relativism is perhaps the most radical and least popular solution to a disagreement, and its defenders generally think the best motivator for relativism is to be found in disputes over predicates of personal taste. I argue that taste predicates do not adequately motivate relativism over the other possible solutions, and argue that relativism looks like the most promising approach when disputants cannot even agree on the meta-evidence for a contested proposition.

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William James , Pragmatism, a New Name For Some Old Ways of Thinking (New York: Longman, Green, and Co.1907) 4345

Max Kölbel , ‘“True” as Ambiguous’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77:2. (2008), 359384

Ernest Sosa , A Virtue Epistemology: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Ernest Sosa , Reflective Knowledge: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Graham Priest , In Contradiction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.2006.)

Carol Rovane , ‘Relativism Requires Alternatives, Not Disagreement or Relative Truth’ in Steven D. Hales (ed.), A Companion to Relativism (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)

Paul Boghossian , ‘Three Kinds of Relativism’ in Steven D. Hales (ed.), A Companion to Relativism (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)

John MacFarlane , ‘Relativism and Disagreement’, Philosophical Studies 132 (2007), 29

Crispin Wright , ‘Intuitionism, Realism, Relativism, and Rhubarb’ in Patrick Greenough , & Michael P Lynch (eds), Truth and Realism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 41

Gillian Rhodes , ‘The Evolutionary Psychology of Facial Beauty’, Annual Review of Psychology 57:1 (2006), 199226

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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