The same old misunderstandings persist in Levi Bryant’s post, expressed in general terms without referencing a definite thinker and using made-up examples. Looking at the work of Bruno Latour, a real thinker accused of relativism, gives a different conclusion.

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3 Responses to STEREOTYPES ABOUT RELATIVISM: when will it all end?

  1. Philip says:

    Reminds me of this from an essay of William James that I read (and posted about) recently:

    “We have no right, this doctrine [agnostic positivism] tells us, to dream dreams, or suppose anything about the unseen part of the universe, merely because to do so may be for what we are pleased to call our highest interests. We must always wait for sensible evidence for our beliefs; and where such evidence is inaccessible we must frame no hypotheses whatever. Of course this is a safe enough position in abstracto. If a thinker had no stake in the unknown, no vital needs, to live or languish according to what the unseen world contained, a philosophic neutrality and refusal to believe either one way or the other would be his wisest cue. But, unfortunately, neutrality is not only inwardly difficult, it is also outwardly unrealizable, where our relations to an alternative are practical and vital. This is because, as the psychologists tell us, belief and doubt are living attitudes, and involve conduct on our part. Our only way, for example, of doubting, or refusing to believe, that a certain thing is, is continuing to act as if it were not.”

    The yearned-for existential purity of acting in accordance with a code that is known to be ‘true’ is, for the pragmatist, an idle distraction. Even if there were some sort of Socratic transcendence in moral action it wouldn’t matter, it wouldn’t be a difference that makes a difference. So why does this ‘relativism’-refuting transcendence still inspire such yearning? Even the Kantian imperative to act in accordance with duty requires one to act.


  2. landzek says:

    I have to comment upon ‘individual ‘svalues’ through a story I just was reminded of , of a gynocologist at John Hopkins who committed suicide because he was fired and sued cause they found him with pictures he has secretly taken of his patients. Where did his ‘true’ values lay?


  3. terenceblake says:

    This is like the question “are we the avatar of our avatar?”. Or Chuang-tzu dreaming of being a butterfly.


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