perjantai 3. elokuuta 2018

Epistemic pluralism, relativism, and points of view

Professor Ph.D Antti Hautamäki
Presentation at The XXIV WCP2018 in Beijing

Basic concepts

Epistemic pluralism argues that there are many ways to be justified or warranted or many epistemic desiderata or goods. Monismis the doctrine, that there is only one way to be justified (etc) or only one epistemic good, namely truth. Relativismis a form of pluralism stating that all ways to be justified (etc) are equally good. 

Monism and metarealism

Monism is often defended by referring to “metarealism”, which supposes that truth is an absolute concept:  If something is true, it is absolutely true. As an application of this principle to epistemic issues: If something is justified, it is absolutely justified. Metarealism also supposes that there is only one true theory about epistemic issues, say about justification. 


Pluralism is often defined in terms of epistemic systems: epistemic statements are relative to epistemic systems: X is justified [in the epistemic system ES]. Epistemic systems consist of ordered sets of epistemic features, where features refer to different epistemic principles, standards or methods. The order means that different features are not equal; some are more important or relevant than others. According to epistemic pluralism a) evaluation takes place always in relation to some epistemic systems and b) there are many relevant epistemic systems. 

Epistemic points of view

What features an epistemic system prefers depends on the point of view of an evaluator.  The concept of points of view can be defined in epistemic settings as a principle to order epistemic features like observation, intuition, inference etc. Epistemic systems presuppose points of view as their antecedents so that we have the chain from points of view to epistemic systems and then to evaluation of statements. In general, points of view are selections of relevant aspects of the objects under discussion.

Epistemic relativism

Epistemic relativism is a special form of epistemic pluralism stating that all epistemic systems are equally good, because there is no neutral basis to prefer one to others. Epistemic relativism is a relevant thesis in concrete disagreements where all parties are strongly committed to their own points of view. They don’t see any reason to change their mind. This kind of stagnation emerges, however, in closed and stabile situations, where no new evidence is available, all methods are fixed, and all external evaluators are excluded. But if new evidence is at hand, new methods are invented and the disagreement is evaluated from an external position, the disagreement might be solved. So epistemic relativism is a local thesis and applies only to closed and stabile epistemic situations.  Instead, epistemic pluralism is a plausible theory about the dependence of epistemic evaluations on points of view. In general, we can learn new things and change our points of view: the concept of points of view is dynamic.

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