Is the proponent of relativism stating something that requires mental obedience through belief in it?
How does the relativist or subjectivist know that there are conflicting or even different views in the first place? What would be the status and criteria of this knowledge?
Relativism is stated as if it is a grand, universal, transcultural meta-narrative for legitimizing knowledge.
But how could the relativist know that the differences in languages are incommensurable and imply that any absolute knowledge is impossible?
Just be sure to take relativism itself as absolute knowledge that transcends the differences, ok?
There is always common ground for a grand epistemological scheme which allows general, universal knowledge of relativism!
And don't forget that everything is relative to a number of language games---except, of course, what the relativist says about those games.
Relativistic theories are either arbitrarily self-exempting of logical scrutiny or arbitrarily treated as meta-narratives.
Everything changes except the relativistic theory of the nature of change. Hence, relativism is arbitrarily exempt from it's own assertion.
But how do you compensate for losing an unchanging world by believing that change can be predicted because it's ruled by an unchanging law?
There may be nothing---God, philosophy, science, or art---that satisfies our longing for ultimate foundations, for a fixed Archimedean point on which we can secure our thought and action. Any transhistorical, transcultural basis for philosophy have been discredited and ought to be abandoned. But incommensurability of different frameworks does not mean they cannot be compared. We can see losses and gains, and we can see how some standards for comparing them conflict with each other. We should return to practical rationality, discourse, judgment, community, and solidarity. We must reinstate the Socratic virtues and further the kind of solidarity, participation, and mutual recognition that is founded in dialogical communities. The incommensurability thesis has nothing to do with relativism, and there is no methodological commitment in any nonhistorical claim.
But if practical rationality is relative to the community, if there is no basis for ahistorical critique, then there is no basis on which to advocate any particular purpose for dialogue. And there are no commpelling grounds on which to advocate communities which value dialogue. If a nonhistorical standard is rejected and and the only possible standard for assessing a community is its assent, then there are no grounds on which to advocate or prefer dialogue or philosophical argumentation or rhetoric---except relative to the assent of the members of one's community. This assumes that such communities will play by the rules.
But this contradicts relativism. It is a move back to the notion of a univeral transhistorical basis for human rationality.
* * *
Science has been accused of being gender-biased. The ways of knowing, metaphysics, ethics, and politics of science is androcentric. In spite of the belief in science's intrinsic progressiveness, science serves primarily regressive social tendencies. The social structure, applications, and technologies of science, its ways of defining research problems and designing experiments, its ways of constructing and identifying meanings are sexist , racist, classist, and culturally coercive. There has been a genderization of science. Human thought has been masculinized. The distinction between the knowing subject and the known object is a flight to objectivity, a flight from subjectivity, infantilism, and feminism. The structure and methodology as well as membership and activities of the members of the scientific community have a masculine bias. Many of the intellectual fields in culture have been male dominated without that domination itself becoming identified as masculine. Why is scientific thought male thought? Male thought has dominated the content and method of the observations, laws, and theories of the members of the scientific community. And this is why most scientists have been and are male. Claims made for the scientific method and the objective universality of scientific thought are false. Is the scientific method of traditional science simply that of a certain race and class of males, and thus only one scientific method among many? And is there a uniquely feminist science? Are the modes of defining research problems and designing experiments sexist? If they are, then this puts into question the entire program of the scientific community. The biased interests of the members of the scientific community can explain one way that research problems and experiment designs in the scientific community become sexist and racist. It's easy to say that the scientific community is object level and involves theories and experiments about phenomena. But the theories and experiments getting the most time, attention, and resources always reflect the interests and choices of the members of the scientific community.
* * *
Questions about scientific explanation and prediction lead to issues about the meta-scientific foundations of knowledge.
Explanation of what?
Prediction of what?
Explanation as opposed to what?
Prediction as opposed to what?
Why are some explanations preferable to others?
Why are there "good" explanations and "bad" explanations?
Why are some explanations "scientific" and others not?
On what evidence do some explanations compel our belief in preference to others?
How do we gather evidence for this?
How do we come to believe certain evidence?
To pursue these questions is to assume a fundamental meta-scientific epistemological inquiry into the nature of reality, facts, truth, reasons, evidence, belief, and knowledge.
* * *
At least some of the terms and statements of scientific theory are on some level "about" objects, events, facts, or phenomena. And the data concerning these objects, events, facts, or phenomena are gathered by empirical observation.
So there is a distinction between the "theoretical" and the "observable" terms and statements of a scientific theory. But there are different ways of understanding the nature of these phenomena and the method by which we gain knowledge of them and explore their problems.
* * *
There is a need to distinguish between theoretical and observable parts of a scientific theory. Scientific laws must occur at some level of abstraction since to provide any explanatory or predictable efficacy for events, they must contain some information about recurring regularities among many events.
But not all universal statements about recurring phenomena provide a basis for prediction and explanation.
Scientific laws are more removed from immediate observations and therefore are more abstract. Universal statements which are simply contingently or "accidentally" universal cannot express scientific laws.
So some universal statements are laws, and some are not.
But this assumes some qualifying claim about causality or physical necessity (in contrast to logical necessity) and hypothetical or future events by using contrary-to-fact hypotheticals. Such law-like universals have a nomic quality and are called nomological universals.
For example, Archimedes Law says that the buoyancy of any object is equal to the weight of the liquid displaced by that object. This law explains or predicts what will happen to different objects when they are placed in a liquid only if we understand the law to be a claim which is based on some physical necessity concerning the nature of physical bodies and liquids on earch and only if we understand the law to make a claim by saying, "If a body were to be placed in a liquid, then its buoyancy would be equal to the weight of the liquid displaced by the object." The nomic quality of the law allows us to provide some explanation of particular events by simply subsuming the particular events under the general law.
* * *
So there is clearly presupposed a distinction between the events, objects, and phenomena to be explained and the scientific laws or theories which are supposed to explain them. Supposedly, the observable terms of a scientific theory provide an empirical grounding to keep the theory connected to reality. Otherwise, one could not distinguish science from non-science.
Discovery starts with an observation and proceeds through an imaginative generalization. It then needs additional observation clarified by rational interpretation.
So discovery and theory construction are a combination of observation and theory.
There is a distinction between experience and interpretation of experience, between content and form or structure.
* * *
We construct our worlds. Worldmaking is an instrumentalist activity through which we construct our world by constructing our theories according to which our world comes into existence. Theretical and not factual concerns guide this process, and particular claims take on meaning and truth-value only relative to a frame of reference. Different claims are all true relative to different frames of reference. On one frame of reference is ontologifcally fundamental or privileged. Though there may be good reasons for preferring one frame of reference to another, no one frame of reference is more factually accurate than another.
* * *
It is an essential part of the nature of the scientific method that one's results, data, and methods are abailable for public scrutiny and critical scientific exanation by others.
It is the method of inquiry which is most important.
Only because the experiments must be public and repeatable can bad science be shown to be bad.
But bad science is still science and is preferable to any other method of fixing belief, since the scientific method is the only built-in mechanism for identifying our mistakes and thereby correcting our mistakes.
* * *
Facts are relative to theory, to paradigm-based science which creates facts and selects them. The basis for peferring one paradigm to another is never factual or rational. One cannot resolve a dispute by using reason or argument or evidence, since frames of reference and therefore facts and reasons, are different to each person.
Therefore, different paradigms are incommensurable. Consequently, switching from one frame of reference to another is all-or-nothing---one just suddenly sees the world differently.
Hence, science is just one of many ideologies, comparable to religion or magic. Reason gives no more preference to one or the other.
There is nothing essentially rational about the method of science. Rationality is essentially sociologically based and biased. There are different, culturally relative standards of rationality. And any person's claim to rationality is only rational relative to their own standards of rationality.
The method of science is not intrinsically and universally rational, and neither are the laws of logic.
The canonization of the scientific method set forth the logical mechanisms for understanding scientific discoveries, since those discoveries are the result of the scientific method.
* * *
Realism is the position that the reality is a certain way, and the scientist must discover the most accurate description of it. Reality is metaphorically out there, beyond or beneath theory. Real objects, facts, or events are what scientific theory is about. And this real world is revealed to individuals through observation.
So observation begins all scientific theory, and provides the sounding board for checking all scientific theory. Scientific theory must keep in touch with reality, keeping the imaginative and sometimes highly abstract theory in touch with the actual world. This gives empirical science its empirical base, continually informed by empirical facts.
Objects, facts, and events---the objects of our observations---are all on the level of the objective physical world, while language and theories are on another distinct level. Objects, facts, and events are 'out there', waiting to be experienced by an observer and discovered by the scientist. Theory formation is the process of constructing the right description of these objective facts. Observation and experimentation provide evidence for theories by focussing our attention on the crucial facts or events. Objective facts are the beginning and ending points of theory formation. Hence there is a gap between facts, objects, and events "in reality" and language and theory, which supposedly describe those facts, objects, and events.
It seems reasonable to treat a true statement as one which accurately describes an actual state of affairs. A witness swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Then the witness says, "The red car was proceeding north on Main Street, and it went straight through the stop sign without stopping and then hit the white car. In this circumstance, the promise to tell the truth must mean that when the witness describes the accident, they are to the best of their knowledge, accurately describing what actually happened. Whether the testimony is actually true or not is determined by the judge or jury who decides whether the statement does in fact accurately describe the actual state of affairs. In this way, truth is anchored in experience, and facts or a person's judgment of the facts become the final arbiter.
Our beliefs are a field or network with epistemologically important relationships among them. Certain beliefs occur more toward the outside periphery of the network while others occurr more toward the central core of the network. All positioning within the field of beliefs is relative to other beliefs in the field. Beliefs which occur toward the periphery are the most loosely connected to other beliefs in the network and correspond most closely to observation statement, reports of sense experience. Beliefs toward the center of the network correspond most closely to theoretical or logical statements. They are more removed from immediate experience and more closely and more thoroughly connected with other beliefs in the network.
This network of beliefs is constantly changing, with new beliefs being acquired and old ones being revised or given up. A person approaches each new experience with a network or field of beliefs, and a new recalcitrant experience occasions a belief which then enters the network at the periphery. In accepting a recalcitrant experience and some statement which describes it, the subject has to adjust the rest of the stateents in their network of beliefs. Hence, accepting a statement might force one to give up or revise some other statement or group of statements in their network of beliefs. The choice of which other statements to revise and which ones to allow to remain unchanged is one internal to the network, made on the basis of deciding which statements or beliefs are the most pragmatically important to the network as a whole.
A conflict with experience at the periphery occasions re-adjustments in the interior of the network of beliefs. Truth values have to be redistributed to some of the statements. Re-evaluation of some statements entails re-evaluation of others because of their logical interconnections. The logical laws are in turn merely other elemental statements of the system. After re-evaluating one statement, other statements have to be re-evaluated. And those statements may be loigcally connected with the first statement, or may be the statements of the logical connections themselves.
Practical usefulness and rejecting the analytic-synthetic distinction imply that every belief in the network is held because of its practical value to the network.
There is no qualitative difference, no difference in kind, between analytic statements and synthetic ones. Any differences are merely degrees of usefulness. This is why any statement can be considered true come what may, and any statement can be revised.
Even though statements on the periphery are more closely related to experience, this just means that a knowing subject's natural propensity to disturb the entire network of beliefs as little as possible, the beliefs toward the periphery are revised first. Hence beliefs toward the periphery have more relative empirical reference, while those toward the center are more highly theoretic.
* * *
If no statement is immune to revision, then "no statement is immune to revision" represents an illegitimate totality. If "no statement is immune to revision" is itself revisable, then it is not necessarily true of any statement including itself.
Logical laws are simply further elements in the system. We might decide to reevaluate and even revise the statements of logical connections among different statements in the system, or any other statements.
Revision of the logical law of excluded middle might simplify quantum mechanics.
Niels Bohr's principle of complementarity: A complete description of light must included descriptions of different aspects of light which are both wave and particle in nature. But the wave-like behavior of electrons on the sub-atomic level cannot be determined by the same experiment. So whether a beam of light is described as a wave or a particle depends on which experiment is conducted.
In an experiment involving electron interference, if a beam of electrons is directed at screen B through screen A which contains a double slit, the slits in screen A set up a pattern of electron interference which can be measured on screen B. This is evidence that the electrons should be described as a wave.
However, if in the same experiment the slits in screen A are provided with a device for detecting electrons, we would know which of the slits in screen A the electons are passing through and determine a trajectory for them. This would be evidence that the electrons are particles. And interference data from the slits in A (which provide the wave evidence) completely disappear.
Given the options available when faced with such a recalcitrant experience, and having to revise or give up some claims in one's network of beliefs, one might decide to revise the law of excluded middle.
So with quantum theory, maybe electrons can be both waves and particles depending on the experimental data, and the law of excluded middle which requires "Electrons are particles" be either true or false does not hold true for quantum phenomena.
* * *
Utility and pragmatic value determine adjustments within a network of beliefs. And the truth of any new belief must be determined by the relationship between the already accepted beliefs and the new one.
A belief is true if it unites easily with the accepted beliefs.
But true ideas stand in some sort of agreement with reality. And there is an independent objective reality. If there weren't, there would be no independent objective reality of needing or being obligated to know that.
The ultimate purpose of a true idea is its pragmatic value in serving as a guide for the subject in dealing with reality.
Truth is relative to a particular system of beliefs or to a particular individual. So there is no absolute truth, and what is true relative to a particular system may also change with time.
The true is only the expedient in the way of our thinking, just as what is right is only the expedient in the way of our behaving. Expedient in almost any way, in the long run over the whole course. Because what meets the needs of all the experience in sight may not meet the needs of future experiences as well.
A knowing subject makes a claim true by assimilating, validating, corroborating, and verifying it. This process is relative to different belief systems and to different times.
Q: Pragmatic determinations about beliefs and their acceptance or rejection are made internally by considering consequences for other beliefs in the system.
James believed that practical value is determined by the success or failure of the entity in its environment.
Scientific investigation is not going to lead toward a single approximate truth. When all things have been unified to the highest degree, the notion of a possible other than the actual will still remain.
And there is nothing improbable in the supposition that an analysis of the world may yield a number of formulae, all consistent with the facts. Why may there not be different points of view for surveying it, within each of which all data harmonize, and which the observer may therefore either choose between, or simply cumulate one upon the other?
Pierce: At any given moment, if any two theories are equally compatible with all of the data, then given Peirce's pragmatic theory of meaning, the two theories are identical and mean the exact same thing.
Roger: Are our purely logical needs external to any of these views?
If all the criteria for evaluating the system of beliefs are internal to the system, including the practical criterion of minimizing significant changes in the set of beliefs, then truth, analyticity, and logical truth are questions internal to the network of beliefs.
James: But themarriage functions which incorporates beliefs about new facts into the network of accepted beleifs does not work for logical laws. The very structur of our thinking provides the framework within which practical considerations operate.
These abstract relations which comprise this structure coerce us, and we cannot play fast and loose with them. When truth happens to an idea, when we make an idea true, this process takes place within a given framework and according to certain rules, the abstract relations. The truth of these definitions or principles or laws is not variable or relative but has an eternal charater to it.
If logical laws are just as revisable as any other statements in one's network of beliefs, then standards of rationality and reason itself would be  relative to different networks of beliefs. Consequently, any absolute notion of rationality, as well as any defense of scientific method as a preferred method of epistemological inquiry, are equally threatened.
But the field theory cannot be developed if one abandons the analytic-synthetic distinction. Field theory depends on and uses a form of the analytic-synthetic distinction just as empiricist epistemology does. Hence, a notion of rationality based on universal and necessary logical laws remains intact as well as the method for fixing beliefs based on those laws.
Quine: Pragmatism differs from dogmatic empiricism. A recalcitrant experience occurs and causes a formation or a revision of some statement on the periphery of one's network of statements. But if one reevaluates one statement, one must re-evaluate other statements because of their logical interconnections. Re-evaluation of some statements entails re-evaluation of others and having re-evaluated one statement, we must re-evaluate some others.
Through this process of logical entailment one is led, through re-evaluation or re-distribution of truth-values, to a considration of the statements at the interior of the network of beliefs by some statement at the periphery. But these logical rules are simply further elements in the system, and no statement is immune to revision.
The logical laws or rules, on the meta-linguistic level, according to which the re-evaluation of statements takes place, are of the same epistemological value as all the other statements in the network.
The Revision Theory: If some recalcitrant experience occurs which causes a subject to regard as true or hold on to some other statement, and if that other statement and some third statement are incompatible, then the third statement must be regarded as false, given up or revised. Furthermore, if holding on to the second statement or the revision of the third statement causes some other inconsistency with some fourth statement, then that fourth statement must also be revised.
The most important thing in this kind of evaluation is the practical concern for the perservation of the system of statements and its smooth operation. Therefore, the statements toward the center of the system, since they are the most important, are the ones which most strongly resist re-evaluation.
On the basis of empirical evidence, people frequently hold on to a belief come what may, even to the point of abandoning what might be called logic or reason. A cockolded husband wanting to retain a belief in his wife's fidelity might refuse to accept any belief which would support her infidelity, even to the point where observers might describe him as crazy or irrational. A parent might refuse to believe that their child is a drug dealer by making extensive changes within their system of beliefs. A theist might do the same thing regarding a belief in the goodness of a transcendent god by insisting that descriptions of human sufferingf and evil are false or by adjusting the network of beliefs in such a way that the belief about such a god's goodness is immune to revision. All of these people use a revision principle to adjust their networks of beliefs to their own liking.
But the revision principle does not describe an individual's psychological inability to accept or reject a belief, and the logical laws at stake are more basic and fundamental than the notion of logical or rational in these examples. All of these people might subbornly and blindly persist in their irrational beliefs and still use conditional implication, the law of non-contradiction, or the law of excluded middle regularly.
The revision principle itself must be on the meta-linguistic level since it is the revision principle which is used to make comparisons among different statement in the system. So the revision principle includes statement on different logical levels which are not seen as statement of different logical types. And since the revision principle is simply one of the further elements in the network, the revision principle itself must be revisable.
But the network theory could not manage without the revision principle. The network thory could not survive the revision or reevaluation of the revision principle itself. If no statement is immune to revision, then neither is the revision principle. If the revision principle is not itself revisable, then it represents an illegitimate totality. If the revision principle is revisable, then the whole theory is relative to different networks and might have nothing to recommend it to anyone who refuses to accept it.
The possible revision of the revision principle would itself be just another statement in the field, and would therefore be revisable. It would be on the meta-linguistic level, since it makes a claim about the possible revision of the revision principle, which is also on the meta-linguistic level. So thether someone decides to revise the revision principle or hold on to it, revising the revision of the revision principle requires an additional logical level and a statement which says something like, 'If the revision principle and the revision of the revision principle are incompatible and one wants to hold onto the revision principle, then one must give up the revision of the revision principle. However, this statement must also be revisable. Hence, the process of revision would never and and one would be faced with an infinite series of different logical levels if the meta-linguistic statements, the rules for the revision of statements, are merely additional statements to be revised in the network of beliefs.
There are revisions, and there are serious revisions. One might slightly revise the revision principle and not cause great problems for the theory of networks of beliefs. But if one chose to give up the revision principle, the network theory of beliefs would have no meta-linguistic rule for revising statements. Revising statements in the system because of the revision of other statements is supposed to be because the statements in the network are logically connected, so that the revision of some statement causes the revision of some other statement in the network.
If one decides to accept, because of some recalcitrant experience that Richard Nixon was a crook.
This might force a revision of other statements in one's network, such as the statement that Richard Nixon was not a crook, so that the statement is false. But the statement that Richard Nixon was a crook has no effect on the statement that water boils at 100 degrees centigrade or that things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other or that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second.
Given the revision of certain beliefs in the network, there must be some rules on the meta-linguistic level for revising statements on the basis of other statements. Otherwise, the revisons and the whole process of assessment of the field becomes a random process, and consequently there would be no way to conduct the assessment with the practical intention of causing minimal disruption to the network of beliefs. And if the revision is random, it would lack the minimal conditions for being a theory or system.
Since there must be some meta-linguistic rules operating within the network to revise statements, there would have to be some meta-linguistic formulation such as the revision principle, along with logical laws, but there must also be some semantic rules for deciding which statements are related to other statements so that the revision principle and the logical laws should be invoked. And there must be some definitions or semantic rules which determine the relationships of meaning among the different statements in the network. Otherwise, there would be no basis for deciding which statements to revise on the basis of some other statement.
These relationships of meanings, which rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction tries to eliminate, indicate which statements must be revised given the revision of others. Consequently, some notion of synonymy or analyticity must be re-introduced to assess the overall network, maximize practical value, and recognize semantic relationships among the different beliefs in a network.