World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Factual relativism

Article Id: WHEBN0009878560
Reproduction Date:

Title: Factual relativism  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Relativism, Internalism and externalism, Social epistemology, Pluralism (philosophy), Pragmatism
Collection: Epistemological Theories, Internalism and Externalism, Relativism, Social Epistemology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Factual relativism

Factual relativism or epistemic relativism is a mode of reasoning that extends relativism and subjectivism to factual matter and reason. In factual relativism the facts used to establish the truth or falsehood of any statement are understood to be relative to the perspective of those proving or falsifying the proposition.[1]


  • Viewpoints 1
  • Critics 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


One school of thought compares scientific knowledge to the mythology of other cultures, arguing that it is merely our society's set of myths based on our society's assumptions. For support, Paul Feyerabend's comments in Against Method that "The similarities between science and myth are indeed astonishing" and "First-world science is one science among many" (from the introduction to the Chinese edition)[2] are sometimes cited, although it is not clear if Feyerabend meant them to be taken entirely seriously.

The strong program in the sociology of science is (in the words of founder David Bloor) "impartial with respect to truth and falsity".[3] Elsewhere, Bloor and Barry Barnes have said "For the relativist [such as us] there is no sense attached to the idea that some standards or beliefs are really rational as distinct from merely locally accepted as such."[4] In France, Bruno Latour has claimed that "Since the settlement of a controversy is the cause of Nature's representation, not the consequence, we can never use the outcome – Nature – to explain how and why a controversy has been settled."[5]

Yves Winkin, a Belgian professor of communications, responded to a popular trial in which two witnesses gave contradicting testimony by telling the newspaper Le Soir that "There is no transcendent truth. [...] It is not surprising that these two people, representing two very different professional universes, should each set forth a different truth. Having said that, I think that, in this context of public responsibility, the commission can only proceed as it does."[6]

The philosopher of science Gérard Fourez wrote in that "What one generally calls a fact is an interpretation of a situation that no one, at least for the moment, wants to call into question."[7]

British archaeologist Roger Anyon told the New York Times that "science is just one of many ways of knowing the world... The Zuni's world view is just as valid as the archeological viewpoint of what prehistory is about." [8]


This view has been criticized by many analytic philosophers and scientists. However recently cosmologist Stephen Hawking in The Grand Design has advocated model-dependent realism, which bears close resemblance to a relativist position, as a means of reconciling apparent inconsistencies between different iterations of M-Theory.

Larry Laudan's book Science and Relativism[9] outlines the various philosophical points of view on the subject in the form of a dialogue.

See also


  1. ^ Iris Einheuser, "Varieties of Relativism: Indexical, Propositional and Factual", from the Logos conference on RELATIVIZING UTTERANCE TRUTH, Barcelona, 2005.
  2. ^ Feyerabend, Paul (1992). Against method (Repr ed.). London [u.a.]: Verso. p. 3.  
  3. ^ "PhilosophyScience2". Retrieved August 11, 2012. 
  4. ^ Hollis, Martin; Lukes, Stephen, ed. (1982). Rationality and relativism. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT press. pp. 27–28.  
  5. ^ Latour, Bruno (1987). Science in action : how to follow scientists and engineers through society. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 99.  
  6. ^ Sokal, Alan; Bricmont, Jean (1998). Fashionable nonsense : postmodern intellectuals' abuse of science. New York: Picador. p. 100.  
  7. ^ Fourez,Gérard (1992). La Construction des sciences, 2eme edition revue. Brussels:De Boeck Université.
  8. ^ New York Times, October 22, 1996
  9. ^ Science and Relativism: Dialogues on the Philosophy of Science, ISBN 978-0-226-46949-2


  • Maria Baghramian, Relativism, London: Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0-415-16150-9
  • Ernest Gellner, Relativism and the Social Sciences, Cambridge University Press, 1985, ISBN 0-521-33798-4
  • Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1978, ISBN 0915144522, Paperback ISBN 0915144514
  • Martin Hollis, Steven Lukes, Rationality and Relativism, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982, ISBN 0-631-12773-9
  • Jack W. Meiland, Michael Krausz, Relativism, Cognitive and Moral, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982, ISBN 0-268-01611-9
  • Diederick Raven, Lieteke van Vucht Tijssen, Jan de Wolf, Cognitive Relativism and Social Science, 1992, ISBN 0-88738-425-0

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from National Public Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.