File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0002, message 13

Subject: BHA: RE: HELP!!  (plus: Yay Gary!)
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 12:54:34 -0500


I don't have an answer for you, but here's another problem. The Philosopher
who wants us to accept this account is making truth claims herself. How do
we know there really have been a plurality of validity-criteria unless we
tacitly invoke one in making this claim? Radical relativism would seem to
undermine such truth claims, so we can't even establish the premise used to
support relativism. (I say "radical relativism" because I think some
relativists are willing to grant certain commonalties to truth criteria but
still see within these limits substantial room for almost infinite

	Marsh Feldman

-----Original Message-----
[]On Behalf Of Ruth Groff
Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 12:09 PM
Subject: BHA: HELP!! (plus: Yay Gary!)

Hi all,

First of all: Yay to Gary!  I assume that's Doctor Gary now!
Now what?

Second of all, I need help with a basic epistemology/philosophy of science
question -- I'm hoping that any or all of you philosopher types out there
will take pity on me and respond.  Here's the background:  I've been trying
to clarify for myself just what it is that relativism is a theory of.
(Sorry about the syntax there...)  This lead me to distinguish between
relativism about truth, relativism about knowledge and relativism about
justification/theory preference criteria.  My question has to do with the
third category, relativism about justification.

So here it is.  How do those who do so get from a claim that:

(i) historically and/or cross-culturally one sees a plurality of
validity-criteria employed for the adjudication of competing accounts, and
that some or all of these principles may conflict with some or all of the

to a claim that:

(ii) all such criteria for deciding between competing accounts are equally

This seems to be the core of Kuhn's incommensurability thesis, but I don't
understand how it follows.

The only way I can see to get from (i) to (ii) is via some sort of consensus
theory of truth, according to which what it *MEANS* for <x> to be true is
that some identifiable group of people agree with <x>.  Then you could say
that any principle of justification/theory choice that is agreed to is, by
definition, true.  Otherwise all you can do, it seems to me, is say that
there is no way to *assess* the relative soundness of competing principles
of justification.  But this doesn't get you to (ii).

[There are two things to say about the consensus-theory-of-truth move,
One, it seems ultimately question-begging, because then you would then want
to know what those people's *reasons* are, for agreeing to the principles of
agreement (i.e., the validity-criteria) that they have agreed to.

Two, it worth noting that it relies on a non-relativist approach to the
concept of truth, i.e., on the view that there is a theory of truth (viz.,
the consensus theory) that is preferable to other theories (e.g.,
correspondence, deflationary, coherence, etc.).  Such a stance is not that
same as that of relativism about the concept of truth, according to which
all competing theories of truth would be equally viable.]

So can anyone help with this?  How do they actually make the case?  And who
are the "they"s in question?

In distress,

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