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.
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