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Rationality And Relativism Notes

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Relativism 'Relativism' - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
? Descriptive relativism: family of empirical claims to the effect that certain groups in fact have different modes of thought, standards of reasoning, etc.
? Normative relativism: a family of evaluative claims to the effect that modes of thought, standards of reasoning etc. are only right or wrong (or similar) relative to a framework.
? 2 faces of (normative) relativism: o Anti-realist: there are no absolute, completely objective, framework-independent facts about e.g. morality, truth. o Realist face: once we relativize things to frameworks, there are facts about e.g. morality, truth.
? "At key junctures the realist face of normative relativism needs something objective of the sort that the first face is bound to find threatening."
? Relativism presupposes realism? "If there are no such things as concepts, beliefs, or modes of reasoning, then groups cannot differ with respect to [these]."
? "A completely global version of normative relativism...would make the relativist's own claims and arguments relative too."
? Conceptual relativists "want to deny that any system or framework of concepts is correct in the sense of matching or fitting or corresponding to the structure of the world." o "The inability to achieve a match with reality is not a defect in our concepts, however, but arises because the world does not come with prepackaged or preindividuated objects exemplifying prefabricated properties and standing in prefabricated relations."
? Normative semantic relativism is the view that the meanings of words literally are determined by a linguistic community, culture, or historical period. o This "typically involves a semantic holism to the effect that the denotations, or at least the meanings in some more general sense, of linguistic expressions are determined by their overall role in a language (theory, form of life, etc.)."
? Quine's views undermine most varieties of relativism, "since there is no longer any absolute fact about what the speakers of different languages or members of different cultures think and talk about, and hence no fact that they think in interestingly different ways."
? Normative truth-value relativism: tokens of sentences, beliefs or the like are only true relative to a framework. o Weak version: there may be things that are true in one framework that are not true in a second simply because they are not expressible in the second. o Strong version: one and the same thing (e.g. belief) can be true in one framework and false in another.
? Normative reality relativism: what is real is somehow relative to a framework.
? There is a difficulty with individuating frameworks, especially if e.g. centrality of beliefs/principles is a matter of degree.


Claims about theory-ladenness of observation/belief "are sometimes used to support various species of normative relativism, especially normative epistemological relativism, by noting the fundamental role of observation in forming and justifying our beliefs."
? Incommensurability: if two frameworks are substantially different from one another, the concepts and linguistic meanings of one will not 'line up' well enough with those of the other for the members of the respective groups to even discuss the same things. o If this is right then it supports weak normative truth-value relativism.
? Semantic externalism: the meanings of many words (or the contents of many concepts and thoughts) are (at least partially) individuated by environmental and social factors.
? The mediation problem: idea that we are trapped in our concepts or beliefs or epistemic standards or, more generally, trapped in our frameworks in a way that precludes our checking to see if they match reality.
? "The fact that we cannot currently understand certain (putative) alternatives is sometimes taken to show that they are not really possible at all, but such arguments turn on a verificationism and anthropomorphism that are as implausible here as anywhere else."
? "If something like the principle of charity is right, it would place rough limits on the amount of conceptual or epistemic diversity that translation or interpretation could reveal."
? "If the epistemic relativist argues that all justification or rationality is framework relative, he lays himself open to the reply that his very claim is at best justified relative to his framework, only rational by his own standards, only defensible by his own guidelines, just as much a social construction as he insists everything else is." o Also: "there is no fact about whether there are frameworks, about what frameworks are, about what is true in any particular framework, about what framework anyone has, about what anyone even thinks his own framework is like, or about anything else."
? Relativists' best strategy is to admit they operate within a particular framework but claim that everyone else shares this (or at least the people they are trying to convince). o Then their claim is no worse off than everything else we hold to be true. 'Understanding a Primitive Society' - Peter Winch
? Evans-Pritchard "rejects the idea that the scientific understanding of causes and effects which leads us to reject magical ideas is evidence of any superior intelligence on our part."
? "[T]he fascination science has for us makes it easy for us to adopt its scientific form as a paradigm against which to measure the intellectual respectability of other modes of discourse."
? E-P "is trying to work with a conception of reality which is not determined by its actual use in language, He wants something against which that use can itself be appraised." o "But this is not possible; and no more possible in the case of scientific discourse than it is in any other."


"What Evans-Pritchard wants to be able to say is that the criteria applied in scientific experimentation constitute a true link between our ideas and an independent reality, whereas those characteristic of other systems of thought - in particular - magical methods of thought - do not." - Ah, this is how Carnap links!
? Azande use witchcraft to explain events "not so as to exclude explanation in terms of natural causes, which Azande are perfectly able to offer themselves...but so as to supplement such explanations."
? "Zande notions of witchcraft do not constitute a theoretical system in terms of which Azande try to gain a quasi-scientific understanding of the world...The European is in fact committing a category-mistake."
? "[T]he forms in which rationality expresses itself in the culture of a human society cannot be elucidated simply in terms of the logical coherence of the rules according to which activities are carried out in that society." 'Reason and Ritual' - Martin Hollis
? Ritual beliefs, unlike everyday beliefs, "do not have objectively specifiable truth-conditions."
? "It is my thesis that we can identify a ritual belief only if it is rational by our standards of rationality." Similar to Davidson
? Rationality is a relation between beliefs.
? A ritual belief is rational if and only if there is a belief q such that q supplied a reason for holding p and p does not entail the falsity of q.
? "[S]ome assumption about rationality has to be made a priori, if anthropology is to be possible; and...we have no choice about what assumption to make."
? "The idea common to the many variants of the Whorf hypothesis is that what a man perceives is a function of his language, in the sense that he discriminates among phenomena according to the linguistic categories he has been trained to use." But nature/nurture?
? "The assumptions required for identifying everyday empirical beliefs are common perceptions, common ways of referring to things perceived and a common notion of empirical truth."
? What is special about Identity, Contradiction and Inference is "that these notions set the conditions for the existence not only of a particular kind of logical reasoning but also of any kind whatever."
? "[W]hat sentences mean depends on how the beliefs which they express are connected, justify a claim to have identified a belief one must show how the belief is connected to others
[necessary condition?]."
? "As ritual beliefs rarely entail each other and are sometimes contradictory and as they do not correspond to objective facts, they will be unidentifiable, unless connected according to some notion of rationality."
? It is a priori that any ritual beliefs that we can identify form a related set whose members supply reasons for each other.
? If Interpretative Charity "means making the notions of Reality and Rationality relative to the native conceptual scheme, in the belief

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