The Definition of Relativism

Speaker: Professor David Bloor # The University of Edinburgh

25th Mar 2013

15:00 - 16:30

Seminar Room, Old Surgeons' Hall

Abstract

How should the word 'relativism' be defined and what conditions should a good definition satisfy? In 1952 the Viennese physicist Philipp Frank published a book with the title Wahrheit. Absolut oder Relativ? (Truth. Absolute or Relative?)  Frank claimed that there is a fundamental and unavoidable choice to be made between absolutism and relativism. He said there was no third way and argued that the methods of science demanded a relativist position. Many philosophers (such as Karl Popper) believe they can evade this choice and claim to develop a theory of knowledge that is neither absolutist nor relativist. I shall analyse these positions and argue that Frank was right and Popper was wrong.

Speaker Biography

David Bloor is an Emeritus Professor and was previously the Director of the Science Studies Unit (a predecessor of the Science, Technology and Information Studies subject group). He has written widely on the Kuhn/Popper debate, the cognitive functions of metaphor, and on the sociology of scientific knowledge and Wittgenstein's philosophy.