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The Limits of Realism$
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Tim Button

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199672172

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199672172.001.0001

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Conceptual relativism

Conceptual relativism

(p.197) 18 Conceptual relativism
The Limits of Realism

Tim Button

Oxford University Press

Putnam’s commitment to semantic externalism is matched in duration by his commitment to conceptual relativity. The initial challenge is to make sense of what ‘conceptual relativity’ might even be. chapter 19 considers a moderate doctrine that might answer to the name. However, this chapter defines conceptual relativism as the radical doctrine that objects and kinds are scheme-relative. If correct, this doctrine would pose a serious challenge to metaphysics. Unfortunately, it is untenable. To show this, three objections against conceptual relativism (including Putnam’s objection to the ‘cookie-cutter metaphor’) are united into a single behind-the-schemes argument. Advocates of conceptual relativism are forced to maintain that the existence of objects depends upon the syntax of our languages, which is a form of external subjective idealism. Indeed, the problems of conceptual relativism are essentially those of nonrealism (see chapter 9).

Keywords:   conceptual relativism, the Pledge to Tolerate, the Pledge to Relativise, the Pledge to Liquidate, mereology, rudy and stan’s miniworld, the cookie-cutter metaphor, the quantifier-variance thesis, the behind-the-schemes argument, the syntax-first thesis

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