New Age Relativism and Epistemic Possibility: the Question of Evidence

Abstract

I Preliminary remarks What I am calling New Age Relativism is usually proposed as a thesis about the truth-conditions of utterances, where an utterance is an actual historic voicing or inscription of a sentence of a certain type. Roughly, it is the view that, for certain discourses, whether an utterance is true depends not just on the context of its making—when, where, to whom, by whom, in what language, and so on—and the “circumstances of evaluation”—the state of the world in relevant respects—but also on an additional parameter: a context of assessment. Vary the latter and the truth-value of the utterance can vary, even though the context of its making and the associated state of the world remain fixed. New Age Relativism is interesting for at least three reasons. First, it presents as a sober, semi-technical thesis in the philosophy of language, drawing essentially on an apparatus of semantic theory fashioned in the well-tried Lewis-Kaplan tradition, and marks an attempt to articulate one of the oldest, most enigmatic tendencies in philosophy in a sharply formulated theoretical framework. This is in refreshing contrast to the rhetorical and impressionistic style of much of the writing of contemporary postmodernism. Second, its motivation, at least in some cases, is empirico-linguistic. Traditionally, relativism about truth has been a metaphysical view, driven by ideas about the limits of the objective world, or the illusoriness of any aspiration to purely representational thought. Its re-emergence as a form of semantic theory, by contrast, has been fostered in large part by considerations about the ways in which, supposedly, relevant areas of language actually work. New Age Relativism allows, it is alleged, of a solid motivation in local data of linguistic practice, rather than antecedent metaphysics or postmodernist party doctrine.

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Wright2017NewAR, title={New Age Relativism and Epistemic Possibility: the Question of Evidence}, author={Crispin Wright}, year={2017} }