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Cognitive relativism

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Title: Cognitive relativism  
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Cognitive relativism

Factual relativism or epistemic relativism is a mode of reasoning which extends relativism and subjectivism to factual matter and reason. In factual relativism the facts used to establish the truth or falsehood of any statement are understood to be relative to the perspective of those proving or falsifying the proposition.[1]


One school of thought compares scientific knowledge to the mythology of other cultures, arguing that it is merely our society's set of myths based on our society's assumptions. For support, Paul Feyerabend's comments in Against Method that "The similarities between science and myth are indeed astonishing" and "First-world science is one science among many" (from the introduction to the Chinese edition)[this quote needs a citation] are sometimes cited, although it is not clear if Feyerabend meant them to be taken entirely seriously.

The Strong program in the sociology of science is (in the words of founder David Bloor) "impartial with respect to truth and falsity".[2] Elsewhere, Bloor and Barry Barnes have said "For the relativist [such as us] there is no sense attached to the idea that some standards or beliefs are really rational as distinct from merely locally accepted as such."[this quote needs a citation] In France, Bruno Latour has claimed that "Since the settlement of a controversy is the cause of Nature's representation, not the consequence, we can never use the outcome -Nature- to explain how and why a controversy has been settled."[this quote needs a citation]

Yves Winkin, a Belgian professor of communications, responded to a popular trial in which two witnesses gave contradicting testimony by telling the newspaper Le Soir that "There is no transcendent truth. [...] It is not surprising that these two people, representing two very different professional universes, should each set forth a different truth. Having said that, I think that, in this context of public responsibility, the commission can only proceed as it does."[this quote needs a citation]

The philosopher of science Gérard Fourez wrote in that "What one generally calls a fact is an interpretation of a situation that no one, at least for the moment, wants to call into question."[3]

British archaeologist Roger Anyon told the New York Times that "science is just one of many ways of knowing the world... The Zuni's world view is just as valid as the archeological viewpoint of what prehistory is about." [4]


This view has been criticized by many analytic philosophers and scientists. However recently cosmologist Stephen Hawking in The Grand Design has advocated model-dependent realism, which bears close resemblance to a relativist position, as a means of reconciling apparent inconsistencies between different iterations of M-Theory.

Larry Laudan's book Science and Relativism[5] outlines the various philosophical points of view on the subject in the form of a dialogue.

See also



External links

  • Template:PhilPapers
  • Template:PhilPapers
  • Westacott, E. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Westacott, E. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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