Three Kinds of Relativism

In Steven Hales (ed.), A Companion to Relativism. Blackwell (2011)
Abstract
The paper looks at three big ideas that have been associated with the term “relativism.” The first maintains that some property has a higher-degree than might have been thought. The second that the judgments in a particular domain of discourse are capable only of relative truth and not of absolute truth (an idea that is sometimes associated with the idea of “faultless disagreement.”) And the third, which I dub with the oxymoronic label “absolutist relativism,” seeks to locate relativism in our acceptance of certain sorts of spare absolutist principles. The first idea is well illustrated by the famous cases drawn from physics, but is ill suited for providing a model for the sorts of relativism about normative domains that have most interested philosophers. The second idea – according to which it is the truth of certain judgments that is relative – seems subject to a very difficult dilemma. The final idea provides a coherent model of cases like etiquette but is not plausibly applied to the moral or epistemic domains.
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