This essay responds to an article, “Epistemic Grace: Antirelativism as Theology in Disguise,” by the philosopher and sociologist of knowledge David Bloor that was published in Common Knowledge 13, nos. 2–3 (2007): 250–80. Bloor's main argument was that there is no third way between relativism and absolutism—that all philosophical positions must fall under one or the other heading. Daniel Paksi's response is that Bloor covertly subscribes to a trichotomy of umbrella headings: idealist relativism (or irrealism), materialist relativism, and absolutism. Bloor, it is argued, connects relativism with neo-Darwinist materialism in order to differentiate his own kind of relativism from the irrealist kind, which denies scientific progress. Paksi argues as well that third ways between idealism and materialism are available—for example, the emergentism of Michael Polanyi—but his main claim is that materialism itself is an absolutist view and thus that its supposed compatibility with relativism (as a means of protecting relativism from irrealism) undermines Bloor's own aims.
Daniel Paksi; RELATIVISM OR ABSOLUTISM?: David Bloor and the Snares of an Unfortunate Dichotomy. Common Knowledge 1 September 2016; 22 (3): 473–487. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-3622357
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