File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0002, message 18

Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 09:57:27 GMT
Subject: BHA: Help on relativism.

Dear Ruth, 

I have a couple of other suggestions for arguments about relativism. 
Hilary Putnam's work, especially his article 'Naturalising 
epistemology' and his book "Renewing Philosophy" examines in 
close detail the arguments about differential criteria of judgement. 
He shows that none of them stand up because implicit and explicit 
criteria are in constant, productive, tension.

Associated with sceptical relativism, the idea that judgement 
between horizons is not possible, is the idea that all horizons of 
interpretation are closed, self contained and internally self-
consistent. Collingwood's "Essay on Metaphysics" is a very clear 
statement of this kind of position. He argues that all arguments have 
presuppositions. Any argument about presuppositions must entail 
those very presuppositions, so will always confirm one's own and 
falsify others. This argument is the same as the one about the 
limitations of transcendental deduction and analytical logic. 

Sceptical relativism is prepared to recognise that there are different 
horizons, as does Collingwood, but it unable to deal with change. It 
is to Putnam's credit that he invokes change and the processuality 
of intellectual life.

Bhaskar's work in "Plato" and "Dialectic" takes up Putnams theme 
and evokes an ensemble of critiques of such 'presuppositions 
(immanent, ommisive and explanatory) to show that conceptual 
horizons are not consituted as internally consistent and self 
contained at all. They are usually riven by inconsistencies which are 
generated by the absence of necessary categories. His 
reconceptualisation of the nature of such horizons shows why the 
arguments for sceptical relativism get into such tangles. 


Nick Hostettler,
Department of Political Studies,
SOAS (University of London),
Thornaugh Street,
Russell Square,
London WC1H 0XG

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