A Contemporary Anthology

Edited by Michael Krausz

Columbia University Press


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Pub Date: August 2010

ISBN: 9780231144117

592 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $36.00£30.00

Pub Date: August 2010

ISBN: 9780231144100

592 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $105.00£88.00


A Contemporary Anthology

Edited by Michael Krausz

Columbia University Press

The thirty-three essays in Relativism: A Contemporary Anthology grapple with one of the most intriguing, enduring, and far-reaching philosophical problems of our age. Relativism comes in many varieties. It is often defined as the belief that truth, goodness, or beauty is relative to some context or reference frame, and that no absolute standards can adjudicate between competing reference frames.

Michael Krausz's anthology captures the significance and range of relativistic doctrines, rehearsing their virtues and vices and reflecting on a spectrum of attitudes. Invoking diverse philosophical orientations, these doctrines concern conceptions of relativism in relation to facts and conceptual schemes, realism and objectivity, universalism and foundationalism, solidarity and rationality, pluralism and moral relativism, and feminism and poststructuralism. Featuring nine original essays, the volume also includes many classic articles, making it a standard resource for students, scholars, and researchers.

Nobody can read these essays without learning not only a great deal about relativism but also a great deal about how to do philosophy, period.

Alan Ryan, Oxford University

There is no better source for pertinent views on relativism.

Jeremy Wisnewski, Hartwick College

The list of contributors to this volume is beyond impressive.

Jill Stauffer, Haverford College

This is something I and many others would like to see available. There is nothing comparable on the topic that challenges the volume for its comprehensiveness.

Jerry Vision, Temple University

I am familiar with most of these essays, and they are just outstanding, and indeed, they fully comprise the reading list for a quality graduate course on this material.

Michael McKenna, Florida State University

This anthology brings together the best and freshest approaches to the question of relativism in philosophy and cultural disciplines. Anyone interested in relativism and recent developments in philosophy will find this collection thought-provoking and invaluable.

Richard Bernstein, author of Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis

A treasure trove of essays by leading contemporary philosophers exploring the varieties of relativism. Sure to become the standard collection of current work on this provocative topic.

Steven M. Cahn, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

A classic and broad-ranging collection of essays on a foundational philosophical problem by several of the most eminent Anglo-American philosophers of our time. Indispensable for graduate seminars and for anyone interested in questions of truth, certainty, pluralism, democracy, and the fragility of human existence.

Lydia Goehr, Columbia University

This collection, which contains both classic and contemporary readings, is impressive in its scope. It examines relativism in relation to, for example, theories of truth, knowledge, modes of scientific inquiry, moral relativism, and possibilities for cultural understanding. Yet it is also focused: successive readings follow trains of debate, and they branch out to explore the multidimensionality of the issues. Nine new essays provide advances to research in the field and the section on culture is especially rich and timely. This is likely to be the definitive collection on the topic for some time.

Susan Feagin, Temple University

The volume is indispensable for anybody interested in one of the most powerful and seductive, but usually poorly understood, philosophies of the past decades: relativism. Comprehensive and thorough, the book offers clear definitions, a careful intellectual history of the term "relativism," several evaluations by major scholars, and provocative test cases and applications, especially in difficult domains such as science and morality. In addition to classic, landmark essays on the topic, Relativism includes original work by both well-established and new authors, thus offering a new perspective filtered through the ideas and philosophies that have emerged since the term was first introduced. Sophisticated in its philosophical analyses and compelling in its explanations and assessments, this is a superb intellectual product coordinated by an experienced philosopher who has been among the creators of relativism, yet has never become merely a propagator.

Andreea Deciu Ritivoi, Carnegie Mellon University

A valuable resource for researchers working on the topic of relativism.... Highly recommended.

Foreword by Alan Ryan
Introduction, by Michael Krausz
Part I. Orienting Relativism
1. Mapping Relativisms, by Michael Krausz
2. A Brief History of Relativism, by Maria Baghramian
Part II. Relativism, Truth, and Knowledge
3. Subjective, Objective, and Conceptual Relativisms, by Maurice Mandelbaum
4. "Just the Facts, Ma'am!", by Nelson Goodman
5. Relativism in Philosophy of Science, by Nancy Cartwright
6. The Truth About Relativism, by Joseph Margolis
7. Making Sense of Relative Truth, by John MacFarlane
8. On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme, by Donald Davidson
9. Truth and Convention: On Davidson's Refutation of Conceptual Relativism, by Hilary Putnam
10. Conceptual Schemes, by Simon Blackburn
11. Relativizing the Facts, by Paul A. Boghossian
12. Targets of Anti-Relativist Arguments, by Harvey Siegel
13. Realism and Relativism, by Akeel Bilgrami
Part III. Moral Relativism, Objectivity, and Reasons
14. Moral Relativism Defended, by Gilbert Harman
15. The Truth in Relativism, by Bernard Williams
16. Pluralism and Ambivalence, by David B. Wong
17. The Relativity of Fact and the Objectivity of Value, by Catherine Z. Elgin
18. Senses of Moral Relativity, by David Wiggins
19. Ethical Relativism and the Problem of Incoherence, by David Lyons
20. Understanding Alien Morals, by Gopal Sreenivasan
21. Value: Realism and Objectivity, by Thomas Nagel
22. Intuitionism, Realism, Relativism, and Rhubarb, by Crispin Wright
23. Moral Relativism and Moral Realism, by Russ Schafer-Landau
Part IV. Relativism, Culture, and Understanding
24. Anti Anti-Relativism, by Clifford Geertz
25. Solidarity or Objectivity?, by Richard Rorty
26. Relativism, Power, and Philosophy, by Alasdair MacIntyre
27. Internal Criticism and Indian Rationalist Traditions, by Martha C. Nussbaum and Amartya Sen
28. Phenomenological Rationality and the Overcoming of Relativism, by Jitendra N. Mohanty
29. Understanding and Ethnocentricity, by Charles Taylor
30. Relativism and Cross-Cultural Understanding, by Kwame Anthony Appiah
31. Relativism, Persons, and Practices, by Amélie Oksenberg Rorty
32. One What? Relativism and Poststructuralism, by David Couzens Hoy
33. Must a Feminist Be a Relativist After All?, by Lorraine Code
List of Contributors

About the Author

Michael Krausz is Milton C. Nahm Professor of Philosophy at Bryn Mawr College. He is the author of Rightness and Reasons: Interpretation in Cultural Practices; Limits of Rightness; Varieties of Relativism (with Rom Harré); and Interpretation and Transformation: Explorations in Art and the Self.