The relativist challenge to comparative philosophy


The claim that there are incommensurable conceptual schemes through which different cultures see the world (or see their worlds) poses a challenge to the viability of comparative philosophy that cannot be easily dismissed. Donald Davidson’s famous attack on the very idea of alternative conceptual schemes through his rejection of the “third dogma of empiricism,” the dogma of the absolute distinction between scheme and content, has never been very well understood. I will argue that the rejection of the dogma enables Davidson to adopt a realist position (as opposed to the anti-realist position of Rorty, who endorses the rejection)and forms the basis for his theory of radical interpretation, supported by his “principle of charity.” And I will use John Dewey’s “postulate of immediate empiricism” to explain Davidson’s views. Together they provide a way to meet the challenge of conceptual relativism

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