Are our beliefs justified only relatively to a specific culture or society? Is it possible to give reasons for the superiority of our scientific, epistemic methods? Markus Seidel sets out to answer these questions in his critique of epistemic relativism. Focusing on the work of the most prominent, explicitly relativist position in the sociology of scientific knowledge – so-called 'Edinburgh relativism' or the 'Strong Programme' –, he scrutinizes the key arguments for epistemic relativism from a philosophical perspective: underdetermination and norm-circularity. (...) His main negative result is that these arguments fall short of establishing epistemic relativism. -/- Despite arguing for epistemic absolutism, Seidel aims to provide an account of non-relative justification that nevertheless integrates the basic, correct intuition of the epistemic relativist. His main positive result is that the epistemic absolutist can very well accept the idea that people using different standards of justification can be equally justified in holding their beliefs: Rational disagreement, he maintains, is perfectly possible. -/- The book provides a detailed critique of relativism in the sociology of scientific knowledge and beyond. With its constructive part it aims at making conciliatory steps in a highly embittered discussion between sociology and philosophy of science. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that many arguments from expert opinion are strong arguments. Therefore, in many cases it is rational to rely on experts since in many cases the fact that an expert says that p makes it highly likely that p is true. I will defend this claim by providing 5 arguments that illuminate and elaborate on 5 crucial claims about expertise. In this way, I aim to undermine recent attempts to establish a rampant scepticism about arguments from (...) expert opinion. (shrink)
The paper explores the defence by the early sociologist of science Ludwik Fleck against the charge of relativism. It is shown that there are crucial and hitherto unnoticed similarities between Fleck’s strategy and the attempt by his contemporary Karl Mannheim to distinguish between an incoherent relativism and a consistent relationism. Both authors seek to revise epistemology fundamentally by reinterpreting the concept of objectivity in two ways: as inner- and inter-style objectivity. The argument for the latter concept shows the genuine political (...) background and intent of Fleck’s sociology of science and its ambition to relieve the cultural struggles of his time. (shrink)
In two recent papers in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Howard Sankey has argued that there is an intimate relationship between Pyrrhonian skepticism and recent approaches to epistemic relativism.Though the general argument and idea of Sankey’s papers is very much appreciated, it is argued that the epistemic relativist’s recourse to the skeptical strategy outlined by the Pyrrhonian is not a good one. This diagnosis gives rise to an objection against the epistemic relativist who argues on the basis of (...) the skeptical strategy that differs from Sankey’s naturalistic response. Furthermore, it can be shown that what is really at stake between epistemic relativism and epistemic absolutism is the question of which criteria there are for variation of epistemic norms and epistemic systems. (shrink)
In a paper published in this journal Martin Hinton aims to show that the struggle between Moti Mizrahi and me about whether arguments from expert opinion are weak arguments rests on misunderstandings (Hinton 2015). Let me emphasize that I generally appreciate Hinton’s intention to settle the dispute between Mizrahi and myself in this way. 1 Furthermore, I also agree with Hinton’s conclusion that if Mizrahi is interpreted in the way Hinton does, then Mizrahi’s “claim becomes far less controversial, but also (...) rather uninteresting” (Hinton 2015, 551)—to refer to the title of my former paper: just spilling out the water wouldn’t be worth a paper in Informal Logic. 2 Let me therefore focus in this reply on the points where Hinton directly attacks my treatment of Mizrahi and also what Hinton takes to be my account of expertise. I will discuss the following criticism of Hinton: (1) that, at points, my attack on Mizrahi is unfair due to my misunderstanding of his intentions, (2) that the notion of expertise I use is self-contradictory/inconsistent, (3) that the argument for my view is circular, (4) that one of my examples—the example from soccer—is mistaken. In rebutting this criticism, I aim to clarify the background of my former paper in this journal. (shrink)
Whereas there is much discussion about Thomas Kuhn’s notion of methodological incommensurability and many have seen his ideas as an attempt to allow for rational disagreement in science, so far no serious analysis of how exactly Kuhn aims to account for rational disagreement has been proposed. This paper provides the first in-depth analysis of Kuhn’s account of rational disagreement in science—an account that can be seen as the most prominent attempt to allow for rational disagreement in science. Three things will (...) be shown: First, we find not one, but two accounts of rational disagreements in science in Kuhn’s writings: one stemming from methodological incommensurability and one stemming from Kuhn-underdetermination, which are not only fundamentally different—the first purports to explain how disagreeing scientists can nevertheless be rational, while the second attempts to show how rational scientists can nevertheless disagree—but appear to be incompatible with each other. Second, I will assess both accounts. Kuhn’s account from methodological incommensurability is not convincing since it cannot explain rational disagreement in science. Whereas, on the other hand, Kuhn’s account from Kuhn-underdetermination allows for rational disagreement, his argument why we should accept it is not convincing. Third, I present a tentative sketch of an alternative to Kuhn’s account that emphasizes the fallibility of epistemic justification in order to show that Kuhn’s argument founders. In sum, the paper shows that focusing not on the muchly debated consequences of methodological incommensurability, but on Kuhn’s treatment of rational disagreement gives new insight into the adequate interpretation of his thought as well as the cogency of his ideas. (shrink)
In this paper I will introduce a practical explication for the notion of expertise. At first, I motivate this attempt by taking a look on recent debates which display great disagreement about whether and how to define expertise in the first place. After that I will introduce the methodology of practical explications in the spirit of Edward Craig’s Knowledge and the state of nature along with some conditions of adequacy taken from ordinary and scientific language. This eventually culminates in the (...) respective explication of expertise according to which this term essentially refers to a certain kind of service-relation. This is why expertise should be considered as a predominantly social kind. This article will end up with a discussion of advantages and prima facie plausible objections against my account of expertise. (shrink)
In a reply to Howard Sankey I have maintained that the epistemic relativist cannot use the strategy of the sceptic since the relativist is at pains not to draw the sceptical solution. Sankey has objected to my argument by distinguishing between weak and strong justification: according to Sankey, the relativist using the sceptic’s strategy aims to provide an argument against the latter form of justification but still maintains that we can have the former.In this counter-response I argue that if this (...) is really the relativist’s strategy then she cannot provide any argument against the absolutist at all. The reason is that she simply fails to address the key question in the debate about relative/absolute justification: are there any absolutely correct epistemic standards? The epistemic relativist using the sceptic’s strategy is thus trapped between the Scylla of undermining her right to maintain that there is relative justification and the Charybdis of providing no argument against absolutism at all. (shrink)
The paper focuses on one central aspect of Karl Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge: his exemption of the contents of mathematics and the natural sciences from sociological investigations. After emphasizing the importance of Mannheim’s contribution and his exemption-thesis to the history and development of the field and the problem of relativism, I survey several interpretations of the thesis – especially those put forward by proponents of the so-called ‘Strong Programme’. I argue that these interpretations do not get the philosophical background and (...) impetus of Mannheim’s contribution right. By distinguishing between naturalistic and anti-naturalistic strands in Mannheim’s work I propose a new reading on which Mannheim did not exempt the contents of the areas in question principally or because of a lack of nerve and will. It is argued that Mannheim’s exemption-thesis rather is a consequence of his own sketchy sociological investigations of ‘the paradigm of the natural sciences’. (shrink)
This volume comprises original articles by leading authors – from philosophy as well as sociology – in the debate around relativism in the sociology of (scientific) knowledge. Its aim has been to bring together several threads from the relevant disciplines and to cover the discussion from historical and systematic points of view. Among the contributors are Maria Baghramian, Barry Barnes, Martin Endreß, Hubert Knoblauch, Richard Schantz and Harvey Siegel.
This volume provides the reader with exclusive insights into Ernest Sosa’s latest ideas as well as main aspects of his philosophical work of the last 50 years. Ernest Sosa, one of the most distinguished contemporary philosophers, is best known for his ground-breaking work in epistemology, and has also contributed greatly to metaphysics, metaphilosophy and philosophy of language.
In this paper, we will discuss Peter van Inwagen’s contribution to the epistemological debate about revealed peer disagreement. Roughly, this debate focuses on situations in which at least two participants disagree on a certain proposition based on the same evidence. This leads to the problem of how one should react rationally when peer disagreement is revealed. Van Inwagen, as we will show, discusses four possible reactions, all of which he rejects as unsatisfying. Our proposal will be to point to hidden (...) assumptions in van Inwagen’s reasoning and ask whether he is willing to reject at least one of these to get rid of the problem. In short, our thesis amounts to the following: Of the two epistemological claims, which we call “Weak” and “Full-blown Fallibilism”, van Inwagen cannot simultaneously accept the first and reject the latter, while this is what he seems to suggest. Revealing this potential dilemma for van Inwagen’s position will lead to a more detailed discussion of how “rationality”, “truth”, “evidence” and “justification” interrelate and how a closer look at their relation might help solving the puzzle of revealed peer disagreement. (shrink)
Philip Kitcher’s account of scientific realism in 'The Advancement of Science' (AS) differs from his account in 'Science, Truth and Democracy' (STD). We demonstrate that (1) contrary to appearance, Kitcher in AS proposes a so-called Kantian realism that is accompanied not by a correspondence theory, but by a hybrid conception of truth. (2) Also, we point out that Kitcher does not pertain to the “promiscuous realism” proposed in STD stringently, but falls back on his Kantian realism of AS at points. (...) Here, we question Kitcher’s claim that his promiscuous-realist conception stems initially from commonsensical be-liefs. (shrink)
In this paper we show that Audi’s fallibilist foundationalism is beset by three unclarities. First, there is a conceptual unclarity in that Audi leaves open if and how to distinguish clearly between the concepts of fallibility and defeasibility. Second, there is a general unclarity: it is not always clear which fallibility/defeasibility-theses Audi accepts or denies. Finally, there is an unclarity of self-application because Audi does not specify his own claim that fallibilist foundationalism is an inductivist, and therefore itself fallible, thesis. (...) The critical part of our paper is supplemented by a constructive part, in which we present a space of possible distinctions between different fallibility and defeasibility theses. These distinctions can be used by Audi as a toolkit to improve the clarity of fallibilist foundationalism and thus provide means to strengthen his position. (shrink)
The recently much discussed phenomenon of testimony as a social source of knowledge plays a crucial justificatory role in Richard Swinburne's philosophy of religion. Although Swinburne officially reduces his principle of testimony to the criterion of simplicity and, therefore, to a derivative epistemic source, we will show that simplicity does not play the crucial role in this epistemological context. We will argue that both Swinburne's philosophical ideas and his formulations allow for a fundamental epistemic principle of testimony, by showing that (...) Swinburne has already implicitly justified the use of testimony as an epistemic source via his fundamental a priori principle of credulity. (shrink)
This paper discusses Sosa’s via media between existential relativism and absolutism. We discuss three implications of Sosa’s account which require some further clarification. First, we distinguish three alternative readings of Sosa’s account – the indexicalist, the homonymist and the (proper) relativist reading – and argue that they differ with respect to two crucial points: (a) they lead to different analyses of the lack of disagreement in existential discourse, and (b) they differ with respect to the question of whether conceptual schemes (...) pick out different senses of “exist” or whether they pick out different entities to exist. Second, we ask Sosa to answer on four problematic implications of his final position: (a) Sosa appears to change the topic from ontology to semantics without solving the ontological issue. (b) It is puzzling why Sosa finally accepts the initially implausible explosion of reality. (c) Sosa is forced to accept that disputants really disagree in existential disputes (although faultlessly). (d) We offer an even simpler alternative option to reconcile the realist and the relativist intuitions by clarifying what is meant by “conceptual relativism”, without arguing for existential relativity at all. Third, we argue that Sosa’s argumentative reliance on an appropriate development of conceptual schemes drives him not only to a position of pure conceptual absolutism, but even to a more traditional form of ontological absolutism according to which nature itself manages to cut the cookies. In contrast to his apparent intention, this discharges Sosa’s via media from any relativist intuition. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that a moderate form of epistemic relativism that is inspired by the work of Thomas Kuhn fails. First of all, it is shown that there is evidence to the effect that Kuhn already in his 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions' proposes moderate relativism. Second, it is argued that moderate relativism is confronted with a severe dilemma that follows from Kuhn’s own argument for his relativistic conclusion. By focusing on the work of moderate relativists like Bernd (...) Schofer and Gerald Doppelt this dilemma as well as the ultimate failure of Kuhn’s moderate relativism are exhibited. (shrink)
In a recent paper in 'Social Epistemology' Dimitri Ginev aims to show that Ludwik Fleck uses transcendental arguments in two contexts in his work that are closely intertwined: the context of comparative cognitive sociology and the context of socio-historical epistemology. I am skeptical about Ginev’s interpretation and my aim is to show that at least the part of Ginev’s argument in which he aims to show Fleck’s use of transcendental arguments in the context of socio-historical epistemology is not convincing. To (...) my mind, a much better interpretation of Fleck’s argument in this context is to see Fleck as using scientisticinstead of transcendental arguments. (shrink)
In this paper we explore Searle’s defense of conceptual relativism. It emerges that Searle formulates the thesis in many different ways and that contrary to his contention not all are trivial and platitudinous. Specifically he does not distinguish clearly between an ontological and a linguistic version of conceptual relativism as well as between weak difference and stronger incommensurability of conceptual schemes. This has consequences for Searle’s defense of external realism.
Since Davidson's proposal to use a Tarskian theory of truth in order to develop a theory of meaning has been criticised extensively, it is decisive to ask whether Davidson needs such a theory as an assumption and premise in other parts of his work. Especially, many authors have claimed that Davidson's argument in his paper 'On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme' depends on his approach in the theory of meaning. It is argued that this interpretation is wrong and (...) Davidson's attack on conceptual relativism does not depend in any way on his defense of truth-conditional semantics. Rather Davidson's thoroughgoing holism and the principle of charity are the basic rationale for his denial of conceptual relativism. (shrink)