Relativism and the Foundations of Philosophy
A defense of the view that philosophical propositions are true in some perspectives and false in others, arguing that the rationalist, intuition-driven method of acquiring basic beliefs favored by analytic philosophy is not epistemically superior to such alternate belief-acquiring methods as religious revelation and the ritual use of hallucinogens.
The grand and sweeping claims of many relativists might seem to amount to the argument that everything is relative—except the thesis of relativism. In this book, Steven Hales defends relativism, but in a more circumscribed form that applies specifically to philosophical propositions. His claim is that philosophical propositions are relatively true—true in some perspectives and false in others. Hales defends this argument first by examining rational intuition as the method by which philosophers come to have the beliefs they do. Analytic rationalism, he claims, has a foundational reliance on rational intuition as a method of acquiring basic beliefs. He then argues that there are other methods that people use to gain beliefs about philosophical topics that are strikingly analogous to rational intuition and examines two of these: Christian revelation and the ritual use of hallucinogens. Hales argues that rational intuition is not epistemically superior to either of these alternative methods. There are only three possible outcomes: we have no philosophical knowledge (skepticism); there are no philosophical propositions (naturalism); or there are knowable philosophical propositions, but our knowledge of them is relative to doxastic perspective. Hales defends relativism against the charge that it is self-refuting and answers a variety of objections to this account of relativism. Finally, he examines the most sweeping objection to relativism: that philosophical propositions are not merely relatively true, because there are no philosophical propositions—all propositions are ultimately empirical, as the naturalists contend. Hales's somewhat disturbing conclusion—that intuition-driven philosophy does produce knowledge, but not absolute knowledge—is sure to inspire debate among philosophers.
HardcoverOut of Print ISBN: 9780262083539 232 pp. | 9 in x 6 in
Paperback$25.00 S | £20.00 ISBN: 9780262513302 232 pp. | 9 in x 6 in
...his version of relativism is, to my mind, the most plausible one to be found in the literature today.
Benjamin L. Curtis
I encourage those interested to read the book with the care it deserves. The arguments are invariably provocative and are presented with admirable clarity and verve.
Andrew D. Cling
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Relativism is a central topic in contemporary philosophy, and this timely book adds a fresh and bold dimension to it. Hales has written an original and stimulating book whose conclusions will challenge deep-seated orthodoxies and provoke strong reactions.
School of Philosophy, University College Dublin
With surprising and challenging results, Hales scrutinizes fundamental issues about rational intuition. His searching work concludes that, whereas the claim that 'everything is relative' is inconsistent, the alternative claim that 'everything true is relatively true' is not. Hales' original treatment is well worth pondering.
M.C. Nahm Professor of Philosophy, Bryn Mawr College, author of Limits of Rightness