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Critical Scientific Realism$
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Ilkka Niiniluoto

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199251612

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199251614.001.0001

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(p.227) 8 Relativism
Critical Scientific Realism

Ilkka Niiniluoto (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Relativism is a bundle of different doctrines in ontology, semantics, epistemology, methodology, and ethics. This chapter starts with a defence of moderate moral relativism: morality is not a natural aspect of the world, but a human‐made social construction. Therefore, moral judgements (‘a’ is good, ‘a’ is right) receive truth‐values only relative to some historically defined system of standards. This does not entail radical moral relativism, which claims that moral systems are equally good or incomparable by some rational principles. In the same way, the epistemological notion of justification is relative to accepted standards. Again, this moderate cognitive relativism does not entail radical relativism. Further, it does not entail a corresponding relativism about truth and reality. Cognitive relativism thus fails precisely at those points where it conflicts with scientific realism. Debates about relativism are illustrated by a discussion of feminist epistemology.

Keywords:   cognitive relativism, feminist epistemology, justification, moral constructivism, moral judgement, moral relativism, relativism

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