One More Round with Relativism

Harry Collins

in The One Culture?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2001 | ISBN: 9780226467221
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226467245 | DOI:
One More Round with Relativism

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Epistemological relativism implies that one social group's way of justifying its knowledge is as good as another's and that there is no external vantage point from which to judge between them; all that can be known can be known only from the point of view of one social group or another. Ontological relativism seems to be the view that within social groups, reality itself is different. We can call any combination of epistemological and ontological relativism “philosophical relativism.” Methodological relativism says nothing direct about reality or the justification of knowledge. Methodological relativism is an attitude of mind recommended to the social-scientist investigator: the sociologist or historian should act as though the beliefs about reality of any competing groups being investigated are not caused by the reality itself. Philosophical relativism does not make any difference to the practice of the sociology of scientific knowledge.

Keywords: epistemological relativism; ontological relativism; methodological relativism; social-scientist investigator; philosophical relativism; sociology of science; scientific knowledge

Chapter.  5340 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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