Conference on the Coherence of Relativism
Poppelsdorfer Allee 28
- Universität Bonn
- Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy
- Philosophy of Language
- Philosophy of Mind
- M&E, Miscellaneous
- Asian Philosophy
- Philosophy of the Americas
- General Philosophy of Science
- Logic and Philosophy of Logic
- Philosophy of Cognitive Science
- Philosophy of Computing and Information
- Philosophy of Mathematics
- Philosophy of Social Science
- Philosophy of Science, Miscellaneous
- Applied Ethics
- Normative Ethics
- Philosophy of Gender, Race, and Sexuality
- Social and Political Philosophy
- Value Theory, Miscellaneous
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Philosophy’s preoccupation with relativism dates back at least to Plato. Despite the view’s long life, it is not usually endorsed, or even very carefully developed, by philosophers. A primary concern with relativism is its coherence, whether the view can be formulated in a way that holds together, both logically and in practice. Formally, this concern includes whether relativism is self-refuting, or whether the view commits some other type of logical fallacy (like self-exemption.) Practically, the concern extends to whether the very act of endorsing relativism transcends the sort of constraints that define the view (for example, by asserting tolerance as a universal value, or by describing another framework that is supposed to be somehow inaccessible/inevaluable from our own.) It also involves the worry that relativism does not allow us to oppose practices (like genocide) that we believe to be clearly wrong.
Despite such concerns, relativism has enjoyed popularity as a methodological, and often also theoretical, framework in many other disciplines, such as literary theory, history, anthropology and sociology. Over the last 100 years, developments in mathematics and physics, such as the discovery of non-Euclidian geometries and the observer dependence of relativity theory and of quantum theory, have encouraged some to reconsider relativism. New developments in formal semantics, by John MacFarlane and others, have also brought relativism back into prominence. Perhaps even more importantly, relativism is a view that we confront in our daily lives, as the forces of globalization bring people with very different practices and beliefs into frequent and direct contact with each other.
This conference gathers a wide range of philosophers representing a variety of viewpoints, including those who are opposed to, sympathetic to and ambivalent about relativism, to develop a fruitful conversation about the coherence of relativism, both at a formal level and in a more social context. It aims to understand with greater sophistication the possibilities, variations and limitations of a view that has long been on the philosophical horizon but is perhaps now more relevant than ever.
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