The Intelligibility of Cognitive Relativism

The Monist 67 (3):327-340 (1984)


Some philosophers have argued that relativism is not defensible because the doctrine itself is not intelligible. In a recent book and two papers Hilary Putnam has repeatedly denied the intelligibility of relativism. He has offered a range of arguments, or hints of arguments, which will be answered, one by one, in this paper. Putnam has been particularly opposed to the relativist’s “criterial” or culture-relative conception of rationality, proposing a “non-criterial conception” instead; but his own formulation of the non-criterial conception and his arguments in its defence will be seen to be inadequate.

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