Boghossian characterizes such relativism in terms of the doctrine of Equal Validity. There are many radically different, yet equally valid ways of knowing the world, with science being just one of them. (2) We ordinarily privilege and defer to the variety of techniques and methods — observation, logic, inference to the best explanation and so forth, but not tea-leaf reading or crystal ball gazing — that we take to be the only legitimate ways of forming rational beliefs on the subject (4). The sophistication and complexity behind Boghossian’s discussion threatens to make it less accessible to the non-specialist than one may hope.
Based on personal theories and repetitious studying , Boghossian is inviting his reader to accept that there is “a way things are independent of us and our beliefs about it (3). Boghossian even goes so far as to revel in his own idealistic claims when opening with In vast stretches of the humanities and social sciences, this sort of ‘postmodernist relativism’ about knowledge has achieved the status of orthodoxy. (2) He takes his time to distinguish today’s modern and popular methods of knowledge seeking that he would consider to be new age orthodoxies.
I agree. Boghossian’s explanation involves both ideological (the post-colonial rejection of colonialism, in general but especially in the name of spreading knowledge) and intellectual elements. The latter involve the rejection of objectivist conceptions of truth and rationality, and the embrace of a “social dependence conception of knowledge according to which the truth of a belief is not a matter of how things stand with an independently existing reality; and its rationality is not a matter of its approval by transcendent procedures of rational assessment’ (6).
The positive articulation of this latter conception of knowledge involves the idea of a such social construction. Mainly all of Chapter two reveals insights to his consumption. Boghossian explains that the world which we seek to understand is not what it is independently of us and our social context rather, but that all facts are socially constructed in a way that reflects our contingent needs and interests (2). I agree with this because I too have noticed the underlying need for something that satisfies instead of supplies us in life, in religion, in wealth, and in relationships with other individuals all the same as well.
We put ourselves in a constructive mindset to where we believe what works for us is what brings about the most change in the absolute most haste. As put in theoretical perspective, whatever is closest is what we reach for. Chapters 3 and 4 address fact constructivism. After pointing out the radical counter-intuitiveness of the doctrine it is leveled for scholars to understand how we appear to construct a fact by accepting a way of talking or thinking which describes that fact (27). While granting that some facts (e. g.
, facts about money and presidents) are mind- and description-dependent in this way, Boghossian presses the counter-intuitiveness of the view that all facts are necessarily so dependent. He distinguishes fact-constructivism from another, weaker thesis , Social Relativity of Descriptions which states that with which scheme we adopt to describe the world will depend on which scheme we find it useful to adopt; and which scheme we find it useful to adopt will depend on our contingent needs and interests as social beings. (29) .
This is an essential part of the chapter as well as the entire book. This view helps resolve the three problems just mentioned, Boghossian claims, because it doesn’t rely on there being any ‘basic worldly dough’ , any way the world is in itself, independently of our descriptions. So on a distinction between it and our contingent ways of carving it up (44-47). Indeed, Boghossian suggests that such relativization is the only way to solve these problems: That If fact-constructivism is to work at all, then, it looks as though it has to assume this relativistic form (47).
According to Boghossian, the traditional argument concludes that the kind of relativism here addressed (such as global relativism about facts) is incoherent because any relativistic thesis needs to commit itself to there being at least some absolute truths; yet what a global relativism asserts is that there are no absolute truths (53). Notice here the shift, not discussed, from relativism about facts to relativism about truths.
Boghossian quotes a version of the argument given by Philosopher Thomas Nagel (which is actually an argument attempting to show that subjectivism is incoherent), according to which (making the substitutions of ‘absolute’ for ‘objective’ and ‘relative’ for ‘subjective’) the relativist’s assertions (that ‘there are no absolute facts of the form, p’ for the Global Relativist about Facts, or ‘there are no absolute truths or absolute standards of justification’ for the traditional epistemological relativist) are caught on the horns of a
dilemma: either they are offered as absolute truths, in which case the relativist, in offering them, contravenes her relativism; or they are offered as relative truths, in which case they fail to challenge the absolutism they are meant to deny. Either way, according to the traditional argument, the case for relativism fails. Boghossian reports that he does agree with this traditional objection , though I do not agree with the traditional argument by which it is defended (53).
He rejects the traditional argument because it is not clear that it follows from the concession that relativism is itself to be true only relative to a theory, that it is just a report of what the relativist finds it agreeable to say. Perhaps relativism is true relative to a theory that it pays for us all to accept, relativists and non-relativists each and all alike (54,emphasis added).
This criticism of the traditional argument fails, I think, for two reasons. First, we can and should ask of the key claim — that it is possible that relativism is true relative to a theory that it pays for us all to accept, whether it be completely true or asserted by the critic to be the truth, relatively or absolutely. I notice that here the dilemma re-arises, seemingly with full force.
His consistent ignoring of large swaths of relevant literature and arguments will make Boghossian’s book frustrating to philosophers who work in this area. Although it is a very hefty subject to argue, his points are very believable and easily met with true and visible support of evidence. I stand by many , if not most, of the literature expressed in this book. I believe that the point that Boghossian meant to get by successfully was made.
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