Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Philosophy Index: Aesthetics · Epistemology · Ethics · Logic · Metaphysics · Consciousness · Philosophy of Language · Philosophy of Mind · Philosophy of Science · Social and Political philosophy · Philosophies · Philosophers · List of lists

This article needs rewriting to enhance its relevance to psychologists..
Please help to improve this page yourself if you can..

Compare moral relativism, aesthetic relativism, social constructionism, cultural relativism, and cognitive relativism.

Relativism expresses the view that the meaning and value of human beliefs and behaviors have no absolute reference. Relativists claim that humans understand and evaluate beliefs and behaviours only in terms of, for example, their historical or cultural context.

Common statements that might be considered relativistic include

  • "That's true for you but not for me"
  • "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"
  • "You can't judge other cultures by the standards of your own"

Some relativists claim that humans can understand and evaluate beliefs and behaviors only in terms of their historical or cultural context. There are many forms of relativism which vary in their degree of controversy.[1] The term often refers to truth relativism, which is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture. Another widespread and contentious form is moral relativism.

Relativism can be contrasted [2] with:

  • Universalism—the view that facts can be discovered objectively and that they thus apply universally in all situations, times and places.
  • Objectivism—the view that cognitive, aesthetic and ethical values are independent of human thinking.
  • Absolutism—the view that beauty, truth, etc, are timeless and unchanging qualities.
  • Monism—the view that in any given area there can be no more than one correct opinion.
  • Subjectivism—the view that any philosophical or moral question has an answer that is not falsifiable, and is therefore subjective.

Advocates of relativism

The concept of relativism has importance both for philosophers and for anthropologists, although in different ways. Philosophers explore how beliefs might or might not in fact depend for their truth upon such items as language, conceptual scheme, culture, and so forth; with ethical relativism furnishing just one example. Anthropologists, on the other hand, occupy themselves with describing actual human behavior. For them, relativism refers to a methodological stance, in which the researcher suspends (or brackets) his or her own cultural biases while attempting to understand beliefs and behaviors in their local contexts. This has become known as methodological relativism, and concerns itself specifically with avoiding ethnocentrism (the application of one's own cultural standards to the assessment of other cultures).

The combination of both philosophical relativism and anthropological relativism results in descriptive relativism, which claims that different cultures have different views of morality, which they cannot unify under one general conception of morality. Thus, one might want to claim that all cultures, for example, prohibit the killing of innocents. The descriptive relativist reply to this is that while this might be true at a general level, different cultures have different understandings of what "innocent" means, and so are still culturally relative.

Elements of relativism emerged at least as early as the Sophists in the 5th century BCE.

One argument for relativism suggests that our own cognitive bias prevents us from observing something objectively with our own senses, and notational bias will apply to whatever we can allegedly measure without using our senses. In addition, we have a culture bias—shared with other trusted observers—which we cannot eliminate. A counterargument to this states that subjective certainty and concrete objects and causes form part of our everyday life, and that there is no great value in discarding such useful ideas as isomorphism, objectivity and a final truth. (For more information on the "usefulness" of ideas, see Pragmatism.)

Relativism is sometimes (though not always) interpreted as saying that all points of view are equally valid, in contrast to an absolutism which argues there is but one true and correct view. In fact, relativism asserts that a particular instance Y exists only in combination with or as a by-product of a particular framework or viewpoint X, and that no framework or standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others. That is, a non-universal trait Y (e.g., a particular practice, behavior, custom, convention, concept, belief, perception, ethics, truth, or conceptual framework) is a dependent variable influenced by the independent variable X (e.g., a particular language, culture, historical epoch, a priori cognitive architecture, scientific frameworks, gender, ethnicity, status, individuality). Notably, this is not an argument that all instances of a certain kind of framework (say, all languages) do not share certain basic universal commonalities (say, grammatical structure and vocabulary) that essentially define that kind of framework and distinguish it from other frameworks (for example, linguists have criteria that define language and distinguish it from the mere communication of other animals). Moreover, relativism also presupposes philosophical realism in that there are actual objective things in the world that are relative to other real things.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Moreover, relativism also assumes causality, as well as a problematic web of relationships between various independent variables and the particular dependent variables that they influence.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Forms of relativism

Anthropological versus philosophical relativism

Anthropological relativism refers to a methodological stance, in which the researcher suspends (or brackets) his or her own cultural biases while attempting to understand beliefs and behaviors in their local contexts. This has become known as methodological relativism, and concerns itself specifically with avoiding ethnocentrism or the application of one's own cultural standards to the assessment of other cultures.[3] This is also the basis of the so-called "emic" and "etic" distinction, in which:

  • An emic or insider account of behavior is a description of a society in terms that are meaningful to the participant or actor's own culture; an emic account is therefore culture-specific, and typically refers to what is considered "common sense" within the culture under observation.
  • An etic or outsider account is a description of a society by an observer, in terms that can be applied to other cultures; that is, an etic account is culturally neutral, and typically refers to the conceptual framework of the social scientist. (This is complicated when it is scientific research itself that is under study, or when there is theoretical or terminological disagreement within the social sciences.)

Philosophical relativism, in contrast, is the skeptical position that asserts that the truth of a proposition depends on who interprets it because no moral or cultural consensus can or will be reached.[4]

Methodological relativism and philosophical relativism can exist independently from one another, but most anthropologists base their methodological relativism on that of the philosophical variety. [5]

Descriptive versus normative relativism

The concept of relativism also has importance both for philosophers and for anthropologists in another way. In general, anthropologists engage in descriptive relativism, whereas philosophers engage in normative relativism, although there is some overlap (for example, descriptive relativism can pertain to concepts, normative relativism to truth).

Descriptive relativism assumes that certain cultural groups have different modes of thought, standards of reasoning, and so forth, and it is the anthropologist's task to describe, but not to evaluate the validity of these principles and practices of a cultural group. It is possible for an anthropologist in his or her fieldwork to be a descriptive relativist about some things that typically concern the philosopher (e.g., ethical principles) but not about others (e.g., logical principles). However, the descriptive relativist's empirical claims about epistemic principles, moral ideals and the like are often countered by anthropological arguments that such things are universal, and much of the recent literature on these matters is explicitly concerned with the extent of, and evidence for, cultural or moral or linguistic or human universals (see Brown, 1991 for a good discussion).

The fact that they various species of descriptive relativism are empirical claims may tempt the philosopher to conclude that they are of little philosophical interest, but there are several reasons why this isn't so. First, some philosophers, notably Kant, argue that certain sorts of cognitive differences between human beings (or even all rational beings) are impossible, so such differences could never be found to obtain in fact, an argument that places a priori limits on what empirical inquiry could discover and on what versions of descriptive relativism could be true. Second, claims about actual differences between groups play a central role in some arguments for normative relativism (for example, arguments for normative ethical relativism often begin with claims that different groups in fact have different moral codes or ideals). Finally, the anthropologist's descriptive account of relativism helps to separate the fixed aspects of human nature from those that can vary, and so a descriptive claim that some important aspect of experience or thought does (or does not) vary across groups of human beings tells us something important about human nature and the human condition.

Normative relativism concerns normative or evaluative claims that modes of thought, standards of reasoning, or the like are only right or wrong relative to a framework. ‘Normative’ is meant in a general sense, applying to a wide range of views; in the case of beliefs, for example, normative correctness equals truth. This does not mean, of course, that framework-relative correctness or truth is always clear, the first challenge being to explain what it amounts to in any given case (e.g., with respect to concepts, truth, epistemic norms). Normative relativism (say, in regard to normative ethical relativism) therefore implies that things (say, ethical claims) are not simply true in themselves, but only have truth values relative to broader frameworks (say, moral codes). (Many normative ethical relativist arguments run from premises about ethics to conclusions that assert the relativity of truth values, bypassing general claims about the nature of truth, but it is often more illuminating to consider the type of relativism under question directly.)[6]

Related and Contrasting Positions

Relationism is the theory that there are only relations between individual entities, and no intrinsic properties. Despite the similarity in name, it is held by some to be a position distinct from relativism—for instance, because "statements about relational properties [..] assert an absolute truth about things in the world"[7] On the other hand, others wish to equate relativism, relationism and even relativity:[8]"This confluence of relativity theory with relativism became a strong contributing factor in the increasing prominence of relativism" [9]

Whereas previous investigations of science only sought sociological or psychological explanations of failed scientific theories or pathological science, the 'strong programme' is more relativistic, assessing scientific truth and falsehood equally in a historic and cultural context.

Relativism is not skepticism. Skepticism superficially resembles relativism, because they both doubt absolute notions of truth. However, whereas skeptics go on to doubt all notions of truth, relativists want to replace absolute truth with a positive theory of relative truth. For the relativist, there is no more to truth and than a personal or cultural belief, so for them there is a lot of truth in the world. [10]

Relativism: pro and con


  1. One common argument against relativism suggests that it inherently contradicts, refutes, or stultifies itself: the statement "all is relative" classes either as a relative statement or as an absolute one. If it is relative, then this statement does not rule out absolutes. If the statement is absolute, on the other hand, then it provides an example of an absolute statement, proving that not all truths are relative. However, this argument against relativism only applies to relativism that posits truth as relative - i.e. epistemological/truth-value relativism. More specifically, it is only strong forms of epistemological relativism that can come in for this criticism as there are many epistemological relativists who posit that some aspects of what is regarded as "true" are not universal, yet still accept that other universal truths exist (e.g. gas laws).
  2. Another argument against relativism posits a Natural Law. Simply put, the physical universe works under basic principles: the "Laws of Nature". Some contend that a natural Moral Law may also exist.
  3. A third argument addresses the effects of relativism. As an idea, this argument contends, relativism has the sole social value of making everyone equal by taking away any rules, thus resulting potentially in (anarchy and complete Social Darwinism) Relativism allegedly allows individuals to do as they please. Many relativists would add a corollary about harming others, but relativism itself negates these kinds of systems. If I can believe it wrong for me to harm others, I can also believe it right — no matter what the circumstances. It makes no difference in this idealogical scheme.
  4. The problem of negation also arises. If everyone with differing opinions is right, then no one is. Thus instead of saying "all beliefs (ideas, truths, etc.) are equally valid," one might just as well say "all beliefs are equally worthless". (see article on Doublethink)


  1. Contradictions such as "all beliefs are equally worthless" appear irrelevant, as they constitute arguing from the premise. Once you have said if the X is absolute you have presupposed relativism is false. And one cannot prove a statement using that statement as a premise. There is a contradiction, but the contradiction is between relativism and the presuppositions of absoluteness in the ordinary logic used. Nothing has been proven wrong and nothing has been proven in and of itself, only the known incompatibility has been restated inefficiently.
  2. Another counter-argument uses Bertrand Russell's Paradox, which refers to the "List of all lists that do not contain themselves". Kurt Gödel, Jorge Luis Borges, and Jean Baudrillard have famously debated this paradox.
  3. A very different approach explicates the rhetorical production of supposedly 'bottom-line' arguments against relativism. Edwards et al’s influential and controversial "Death and Furniture" paper takes this line in its staunch defence of relativism.
  4. A strong epistemological relativist could theoretically argue that it does not matter that his theory is only relative according to itself. As long as it remains "true" according to a relative framework, then it is just as true as any apparently "absolute" truth that a realist would postulate. The dispute lies in the distinction between whether the framework is relative or absolute, but if a realist could be persuaded it was relative, then the relativist theory could exist logically within that framework, albeit accepting that its "truth" is relative. A strong epistemological relativist must remove his own notions of universal truth if he is to embrace his theory fully, he must accept some form of truth to validate his theory logically, and this truth, by definition, must be relative. In other frameworks his theory might be regarded as untrue, and so the theory cannot exist here. Looked at from this perspective, with all notions and premises of universal truth removed, the notion of strong epistemological relativism is logically valid.

Advocates of Relativism

Indian religions

Indian religions tend to be naturally relativistic. Mahavira (599-527 BC), the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, developed an early philosophy regarding relativism and subjectivism known as Anekantavada. Hindu religion has no theological difficulties in accepting degrees of truth in other religions. A Rig Vedic hymn states that "Truth is One, though the sages know it variously." (Ékam sat vipra bahudā vadanti)

The Sikh Gurus (spiritual teacher ) have propagated the message of "many paths" leading to the one God and ultimate salvation for all souls who tread on the path of righteousness. They have supported the view that proponents of all faiths can, by doing good and virtuous deeds and by remembering the Lord, certainly achieve salvation. The students of the Sikh faith are told to accept all leading faiths as possible vehicle for attaining spiritual enlightenment provided the faithful study, ponder and practice the teachings of their prophets and leaders. The holy book of the Sikhs called the Sri Guru Granth Sahib says: "Do not say that the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran are false. Those who do not contemplate them are false." Guru Granth Sahib page 1350.[11] and "The seconds, minutes, and hours, days, weeks and months, and the various seasons originate from the one Sun; O nanak, in just the same way, the many forms originate from the Creator." Guru Granth Sahib page 12,13.


Sophists are considered the founding fathers of relativism in the Western World. Elements of relativism emerged among the Sophists in the 5th century BC. Notably, it was Protagoras who coined the phrase, "Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not." The thinking of the Sophists is mainly known through their opponents, Plato and Socrates.

Bernard Crick

Another important advocate of relativism, Bernard Crick, a British political scientist, wrote the book In Defence of Politics (first published in 1962), suggesting the inevitability of moral conflict between people. Crick stated that only ethics could resolve such conflict, and when that occurred in public it resulted in politics. Accordingly, Crick saw the process of dispute resolution, harms reduction, mediation or peacemaking as central to all of moral philosophy. He became an important influence on the feminists and later on the Greens.

Paul Feyerabend

The philosopher-of-science Paul Feyerabend wholeheartedly embraced relativism, and even "epistemological anarchy".[12]

"All methodologies have their limitations and the only rule that survives is 'anything goes'"[13]

Or, in a more conciliatory mood:

"I argue that all rules have their limits, and there is no comprehensive 'rationality', I do not argue that we should proceed without rules and standards"[14]

Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn's philosophy of science, as expressed in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is often seen as relativistic (and enthusiastically proclaimed as such within the humanities). He claimed that as well as progressing steadily and incrementally ("normal science"), science undergoes periodic revolutions or "paradigm shifts", leaving scientists working in different paradigms with difficulty in even communicating.

"the third and most fundamental aspect of the incommensurability of competing paradigms: this is a sense that I am unable to explicate further, [in which] the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds. One contains constrained bodies that fall slowly, the other pendulums that repeat their motions again and again. In one, solutions are compounds, in the other mixtures. One is embedded in a flat, the other in a curved, matrix of space. Practicing in two different worlds, the two groups of scientists see different things when they look from the same point in the same direction. Again, that is not to say that they can see anything they please. Both are looking at the world, and what they look at has not changed. However in some areas they see different things and they see them in different relations one to the other. That is why a law that cannot even be demonstrated to one group of scientists may occasionally seem intuitively obvious to another. Equally, it is why, before they can hope to communicate fully, one group or the other must experience the conversion that we have been calling a paradigm shift."[15]

Thus the truth of a claim, or the existence of a posited entity is relative to the paradigm employed. However, he was reluctant to fully embrace relativism.

From these remarks, one thing is however certain: Kuhn is not saying that incommensurable theories cannot be compared - what they can’t be is compared in terms of a system of common measure. He very plainly says that they can be compared, and he reiterates this repeatedly in later work, in a (mostly in vain) effort to avert the crude and sometimes catastrophic misinterpretations he suffered from mainstream philosophers and post-modern relativists alike.[16]

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson define relativism in their book Metaphors We Live By as the rejection of both subjectivism and metaphysical objectivism in order to focus on the relationship between them, i.e. the metaphor by which we relate our current experience to our previous experience. In particular, Lakoff and Johnson characterize "objectivism" as a "straw man", and, to a lesser degree, criticize the views of Karl Popper, Kant and Aristotle.

Robert Nozick

In his book Invariances, Robert Nozick expresses a complex set of theories about the absolute and the relative. He thinks the absolute/relative distinction should be recast in terms of a invariant/variant distinction, where there are many things a proposition can be invariant with regard to or vary with. He thinks it is coherent for truth to be relative, and speculates that it might vary with time. He thinks necessity is an unobtainable notion, but can be approximated by robust invariance across a variety of conditions—although we can never identify a proposition that is invariant with regard to everything. Finally, he is not particularly warm to one of the most famous forms of relativism, moral relativism, preferring an evolutionary account.

Joseph Margolis

Joseph Margolis advocates a view he calls "robust relativism" and defends it in his books: Historied Thought, Constructed World, Chapter 4 (California, 1995) and The Truth about Relativism (Blackwells, 1991). He opens his account by stating that our logics should depend on what we take to be the nature of the sphere to which we wish to apply our logics. Holding that there can be no distinctions which are not "privileged" between the alethic, the ontic, and the epistemic, he maintains that a many valued logic just might be the most apt for aesthetics or history since, because in these practices, we are loath to hold to simple binary logic; and he also holds that many-valued logic is relativistic. (This is perhaps an unusual definition of "relativistic". Compare with his comments on "relationism"). "True" and "False" as mutually exclusive and exhaustive judgements on Hamlet, for instance, really does seem absurd. A many valued logic—"apt", "reasonable", "likely", and so on—seems intuitively more applicable to Hamlet interpretation. Where apparent contradictions arise between such interpretations, we might call the interpretations "incongruent", rather than dubbing either "false".

The problem with the standard two-valued logic is simply that it only ever applies to sentential formulas and not to interpreted sentences in use. The principle of non-contradiction can easily be made not to obtain by reinterpreting the terms involved, as is the case with the corpuscular versus the wave theory of light[How to reference and link to summary or text].

It was Aristotle who held that relativism implied we should, sticking with appearances only, end up contradicting ourselves somewhere if we could apply all attributes to all ousiai (beings). Aristotle, however, made non-contradiction dependent upon his essentialism. If his essentialism is false, then so too is his ground for disallowing relativism. (Subsequent philosophers have found other reasons for supporting the principle of non-contradiction).

Beginning with Protagoras and invoking Charles Peirce, Margolis shows that the historic struggle to discredit relativism is an attempt to impose an unexamined belief in the world's essentially rigid rule-like nature. Plato and Aristotle merely attacked "relationalism"--the doctrine of true-for l or true for k, and the like, where l and k are different speakers or different worlds, or the something similar (Most philosophers would call this position "relativism"). For Margolis "true" means true; that is, the alethic use of "true" remains untouched. However, in real world contexts, and context is ubiquitous in the real world, we must apply truth values. Here, in epistemic terms, we might retire "true" tout court as an evaluation and keep "false". The rest of our value-judgements could be graded from "extremely plausible" down to "false". Judgements which on a bivalent logic would be incompatible or contradictory are further seen as "incongruent", though one may well have more weight than the other. In short, relativistic logic is not, or need not be, the bugbear it is often presented to be. It may simply be the best type of logic to apply to certain very uncertain spheres of our real experiences in the world (although some sort of logic needs to be applied to make that judgement). Those who swear by bivalent logic might simply be the ultimate keepers of the great fear of the flux.

Richard Rorty

Philosopher Richard Rorty has a somewhat paradoxical role in the debate over relativism: he is criticized for his relativistic views, but prefers to describe himself not as a relativist, but as a pragmatist.

'"Relativism" is the traditional epithet applied to pragmatism by realists'[17]
'"Relativism" is the view that every belief on a certain topic, or perhaps about any topic, is as good as every other. No one holds this view. Except for the occasional cooperative freshman, one cannot find anybody who says that two incompatible opinions on an important topic are equally good. The philosophers who get called 'relativists' are those who say that the grounds for choosing between such opinions are less algorithmic than had been thought.'[18]
'In short, my strategy for escaping the self-referential difficulties into which "the Relativist" keeps getting himself is to move everything over from epistemology and metaphysics into cultural politics, from claims to knowledge and appeals to self-evidence to suggestions about what we should try.'[19]

Rorty takes a deflationary attitude to truth, believing there is nothing of interest to be said about truth in general, including the contention that it is generally subjective. He also argues that the notion of warrant or justification can do most of the work traditionally assigned to the concept of truth, and that justification is relative; justification is justification to an audience, for Rorty. Thus his position, in the view of many commentators, adds up to relativism.

In Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity he argues that the debate between so-called relativists and so-called objectivists is beside the point because they don't have enough premises in common for either side to prove anything to the other.

Isaiah Berlin

The late Sir Isaiah Berlin expressed relativist views when he stated that, to "confuse our own constructions with eternal laws or divine decrees is one of the most fatal delusions of men." [20] And again when he said, "the concept of fact is itself problematic…all facts embody theories...or socially conditioned, ideological attitudes."[21]

Critics of relativism

Philosopher Paul Boghossian has written a book called Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism.

In Science and Relativism, Larry Laudan writes "The displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interest and perspectives, is—second only to American political campaigns—the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of relativism of our time."

The literary theorist Christopher Norris has written a book entitled "Against Relativism". He is an expert on postmodern thought, particularly deconstruction, and argues that deconstruction, properly understood, does not equate to relativism.

Plato was the first great critic of relativism. He criticizes the views of the sophist Protagoras in his dialogue Thaetetus.

Physicist Alan Sokal initiated the science wars in 1996 with his hoax paper entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity".[22] . He later co-authored the book Fashionable Nonsense (also known as Intellectual Impostures) with Jean Bricmont, which criticises the postmodernist use and (what they perceived to be) abuse of science.

Kenan Malik writes: "The consequence of this [relativism] has been both to undermine the value of knowledge and to narrow the scope of intellectual and political debate".[23]

Two of the most prominent modern opponents of relativism are also adherents of differing forms of absolutism: Richard Dawkins and the Roman Catholic Church. Interestingly, they seem to lambast against each other as much as against relativism.[24][25][26]

Postmodern relativism

The term "relativism" often comes up in debates over postmodernism, poststructuralism and phenomenology. Critics of these perspectives often identify advocates with the label "relativism." For example, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is often considered a relativist view because it posits that linguistic categories and structures shape the way people view the world. Similarly, deconstruction is often termed a relativist perspective because of the ways it locates the meaning of a text in its appropriation and reading, implying that there is no "true" reading of a text and no text apart from its reading. Stanley Fish has defended postmodernism and relativism. [27]

These perspectives do not strictly count as relativist in the philosophical sense, because they express agnosticism on the nature of reality and make epistemological rather than ontological claims. Nevertheless, the term is useful to differentiate them from realists who believe that the purpose of philosophy, science, or literary critique is to locate externally true meanings. Important philosophers and theorists such as Michel Foucault, Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche, political movements such as post-anarchism or post-left anarchy can also be considered as relativist in this sense - though a better term might be social constructivist.

The spread and popularity of this kind of "soft" relativism varies between academic disciplines. It has wide support in anthropology and has a majority following in cultural studies. It also has advocates in political theory and political science, sociology, and continental philosophy (as distinct from Anglo-American analytical philosophy). It has inspired empirical studies of the social construction of meaning such as those associated with labelling theory, which defenders can point to as evidence of the validity of their theories (albeit risking accusations of performative contradiction in the process). Advocates of this kind of relativism often also claim that recent developments in the natural sciences, such as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, quantum mechanics, chaos theory and complexity theory show that science is now becoming relativistic. However, many scientists who use these methods continue to identify as realist or post-positivist, and some sharply criticize the association[28][29]

See also


  1. Maria Baghramian identifies 16 (Relativism, 2004,Baghramian)
  2. Baghramian, M. Relativism, 2004, p2
  3. includeonly>Collins, Harry. "What's wrong with relativism?", Physics World, IOP Publishing, 1998-04-01. Retrieved on 2008-04-16. “...methodological relativism - impartial assessment of how knowledge develops - is the key idea for sociology of scientific knowledge...”
  4. Locke, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson: Contesting Diversity in the Enlightenment and Beyond by Dr. Daniel Carey
  5. Methodological and Philosophical Relativism by Gananath Obeyesekere
  6. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  7. Baghramian, M. Relativism, 2004, p43
  8. Interview with Bruno LatourOn Relativism, Pragmatism, and Critical Theory
  9. Baghramian, M. Relativism, 2004, p85
  10. Wood. A, Relativism
  11. Guru Granth Sahib page 1350
  12. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Paul Feyerabend
  13. Feyerabend, P. Against Method, p. 296
  14. Feyerabend, P. Against Method p. 231
  15. Kuhn, S. Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. 158
  16. Sharrock. W., Read R. Kuhn: Philosopher of Scientific Revolutions
  17. Rorty, R. Consequences of Pragmatism
  18. Richard Rorty, Pragmatism, Relativism, and Irrationalism
  19. Rorty, R. Hilary Putnam and the Relativist Menace
  20. Sir Isaiah Berlin, Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas, London: Pimlico, 1997, p.303
  21. Sir Isaiah Berlin, 'Alleged Relativism in Eighteenth Century Thought,' in The Crooked Timber of Humanity, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999, p.89
  22. Sokal A. (1996). Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. Social Text 46/47: 217–252.
  23. Kenan Malik on relativism.
  24. Thomas Crean, A Catholic Replies to Professor Dawkins
  25. Alister McGrath, The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine
  26. Ryan Tubridy, The God Delusion: David Quinn & Richard Dawkins debate
  27. Don't Blame Relativism as "serious thought"
  28. Sokal and the Science Wars
  29. Quantum quackery
  • Edwards, D., Ashmore, M. & Potter, J. (1995). Death and furniture: The rhetoric, politics, and theology of bottom line arguments against relativism. History of the Human Sciences, 8, 25-49. Full text

Further reading



  • Abbot, F. E. (1885). The theory of noumenism. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Co.
  • Baghramian, Maria Relativism, London: Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0415161509
  • Bain, A. (1880). Emotions of relativity: Novelty.--Wonder.--Liberty. New York, NY: D Appleton & Company.
  • Barzilai, Gad Communities and Law: Politics and Cultures of Legal Identities, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003, ISBN 0-472-11315-1
  • Blinov, A. (2007). Vagueness, supertranslatability, and conceptual schemes. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Bockover, M. I. (1997). Ethics, relativism, and the self. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
  • Boghossian, P. (2006). Fear of knowledge: Against relativism and constructivism. New York, NY: Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press.
  • Bradley, F. H. (1922). Essay VIII: Some remarks on absolute truth and on probability. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Brown, S. D., Pujol, J., & Curt, B. C. (1998). As one in a web? Discourse, materiality and the place of ethics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Burr, V. (1998). Overview: Realism, relativism, social constructionism and discourse. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Casebeer, W. D. (2008). Three cheers for naturalistic ethics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Davies, B. (1998). Psychology's subject: A commentary on the relativism/realism debate. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Ferrier, J. F. (1854). Proposition XIX. What the relative in cognition is. Edinburgh, Great Britain: William Blackwood and Sons.
  • Ferrier, J. F. (1854). Proposition XVIII. The relative in cognition. Edinburgh, Great Britain: William Blackwood and Sons.
  • Flanagan, O., Sarkissian, H., & Wong, D. (2008). Naturalizing ethics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Flanagan, O., Sarkissian, H., & Wong, D. (2008). What is the nature of morality? A response to Casebeer, Railton, and Ruse. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Garan, D. G. (1963). The paradox in economics, politics and history. New York, NY: Philosophical Library.
  • Garan, D. G. (1963). The paradox of disease and cure. New York, NY: Philosophical Library.
  • Garan, D. G. (1963). The paradox of pleasure and relativity: The psychological causal law. New York, NY: Philosophical Library.
  • Garan, D. G. (1963). Pleasure and relativity. New York, NY: Philosophical Library.
  • Garan, D. G. (1963). The relativity of knowledge (from philosophy to physics). New York, NY: Philosophical Library.
  • Gellner, Ernest Relativism and the Social Sciences, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985, ISBN 0521337984
  • Harre,, Rom (Ed.), Varieties of Relativism, Oxford, UK; New York, NY: Blackwell, 1996, ISBN 0631184090
  • Hollis, M. & Lukes, S. Rationality and Relativism, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982, ISBN 0631127739
  • Horne, J. S. (2001). Truth or consequences: Pragmatism, relativism, and ethics. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
  • Hoshmand, L. T. (1998). Epistemic and moral visibility in the postmodern age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Kagitcibasi, C. (2000). Cultural contextualism without complete relativism in the study of human development. Lengerich, Germany: Pabst Science Publishers.
  • Macklaklevich, H. (2001). To hell in a Lexus: The problems of today's relativistic American society.
  • Margolis, J. Krausz,M. Burian, R.M.(Eds.), Rationality, Relativism, and the Human Sciences, Dordrecht: Boston, M. Nijhoff, 1986, ISBN 9024732719
  • Meiland, J.W. & Krausz,M. (1982). Relativism, Cognitive and Moral, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, , ISBN 0268016119
  • Mill, J. S. (1867). The doctrine of the relativity of human knowledge, as held by Sir William Hamilton. London, Great Britain: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer.
  • Mill, J. S. (1867). The relativity of human knowledge. London, Great Britain: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer.
  • Morawski, J. (1998). The return of phantom subjects? Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Musseler, J. (1999). Perceiving and measuring of spatiotemporal events. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
  • Physicus. (1913). The speculative standing of materialism. London, England: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Company.
  • Potter, J. (1998). Fragments in the realization of relativism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Railton, P. (2008). Naturalism relativized? Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Robbins, M. (1996). Conceiving of personality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Ruse, M. (2008). Response to Duke naturalists. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Smith, J. K., & Hodkinson, P. (2008). Relativism, criteria, and politics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Spencer, H. (1879). Absolute and relative ethics. Philadelphia, PA: David McKay Publisher.
  • Spencer, H. (1892). What ideas and sentiments are ethical? New York, NY: D Appleton & Company.
  • Traer, R., & Stelmach, H. (2008). Doing ethics in a diverse world. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
  • Welsh, T. L. (2003). Originary experience: The role of psychology in Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology (Maurice Merleau-Ponty). Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Willig, C. (1998). Social constructionism and revolutionary socialism: A contradiction in terms? Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.


  • Alonso Sanchez, M., & Soler Selva, V. (2006). The theory of relativity at high school: Proposal for a teaching unit: Ensenanza de las Ciencias Revista de investigacion y experiencias didacticas Vol 24(3) Nov 2006, 439-454.
  • Andersson, O. (2003). A supplement to Freud's case history of "Frau Emmy v. N." in Studies on hysteria 1895: Journal of European Psychoanalysis No 17 Sum-Win 2003, 139-149.
  • Bohmig-Krumhaar, S. A., Staudinger, U. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2002). In search of more tolerance: Testing the facilitative effect of a knowledge-activating mnemonic strategy on value relativism: Zeitschrift fur Entwicklungspsychologie und Padagogische Psychologie Vol 34(1) 2002, 30-43.
  • Boudon, R. (2005). The Social Sciences and Two Types of Relativism: Journal of Classical Sociology Vol 5(2) Jul 2005, 157-174.
  • Bourguignon, E. (2000). Relativism and ambivalence in the work of M. J. Herskovits: Ethos Vol 28(1) Mar 2000, 103-114.
  • Butt, T. (2000). Pragmatism, constructivism, and ethics: Journal of Constructivist Psychology Vol 13(2) Apr-Jun 2000, 85-101.
  • Calabrese, J. D. (2003). Reality and Representation in the Cultural Psychology of Childcare: Incorporating a Critical Perspective: Culture & Psychology Vol 9(4) Dec 2003, 499-506.
  • Capaldi, E. J., & Proctor, R. W. (2000). Laudan's normative naturalism: A useful philosophy of science for psychology: American Journal of Psychology Vol 113(3) Fal 2000, 430-454.
  • Capps, D. (2007). Shame and the solitary way: Pastoral Psychology Vol 56(1) Sep 2007, 3-8.
  • Cronick, K. (2002). Relativity, verosimility and consciousness raising: Community problematization: Revista Interamericana de Psicologia Vol 36(1-2) 2002, 41-62.
  • Dale, J. L. (2005). Reflective judgement: Seminarians' epistemology in a world of relativism: Journal of Psychology & Theology Vol 33(1) Spr 2005, 56-64.
  • de Fisch, F. W. (2003). Actual Controversies about the Object Conception in Psychoanalysis: Psicoanalisis: Revista de la asociacion Psicoanalitica de Buenos Aires Vol 25(2-3) 2003, 291-301.
  • Delaney, J. J. (2003). Tolerance and tact: A critical thinking strategy for dealing with relativism: Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines Vol 22(4) Sum 2003, 27-31.
  • Dixon, R. A. (1980). Review of Science in a free society: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 25 (1), Jan, 1980.
  • Dubinsky, A. J., Nataraajan, R., & Huang, W.-Y. (2005). Consumers' moral philosophies: Identifying the idealist and the relativist: Journal of Business Research Vol 58(12) Dec 2005, 1690-1701.
  • Else-Quest, N. M. (2006). Not my feminism: The global fight for women's freedom: Psychology of Women Quarterly Vol 30(3) Sep 2006, 324-325.
  • Evanoff, R. J. (2004). Universalist, relativist, and constructivist approaches to intercultural ethics: International Journal of Intercultural Relations Vol 28(5) Sep 2004, 439-458.
  • Fletcher, G. J. O. (1996). Realism versus relativism in psychology: American Journal of Psychology 109(3) Fal 1996, 409-429.
  • Forsyth, D. R., O'Boyle, E. H., Jr., & McDaniel, M. A. (2008). East meets West: A meta-analytic investigation of cultural variations in idealism and relativism: Journal of Business Ethics Vol 83(4) Dec 2008, 813-833.
  • Fourcher, L. A. (1998). Commentary on "Relativism and the social-constructivist paradigm." Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 5(1) Mar 1998, 49-53.
  • Gergen, K. J. (1989). Toward a Justified Relativism: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 34 (8), Aug, 1989.
  • Gillett, E. (1998). Relativism and the social-constructivist paradigm: Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 5(1) Mar 1998, 37-48.
  • Gillett, E. (1998). Response to commentaries on "Relativism and the social-constructivist paradigm." Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 5(1) Mar 1998, 61-65.
  • Gillon, R. (2003). Ethics needs principles--four can encompass the rest--and respect for autonomy should be "first among equals": Journal of Medical Ethics Vol 29(5) Oct 2003, 307-312.
  • Goodson, F. E. (1967). Meaningful Unity or Encapsulating Globality? : PsycCRITIQUES Vol 12 (4), Apr, 1967.
  • Greiffenhagen, C., & Sharrock, W. (2006). Mathematical relativism: Logic, grammar, and arithmetic in cultural comparison: Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour Vol 36(2) Jun 2006, 97-117.
  • Greiffenhagen, C., & Sharrock, W. (2007). Linguistic relativism: Logic, grammar, and arithmetic in cultural comparison: Language & Communication Vol 27(1) Jan 2007, 81-107.
  • Hales, S. D., & Welshon, R. (1999). Nietzsche, perspectivism and mental health: Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 6(3) Sep 1999, 173-177.
  • Hepburn, A. (2000). On the alleged incompatibility between relativism and feminist psychology: Feminism & Psychology Vol 10(1) Feb 2000, 91-106.
  • Honig, K. (2005). Relativism or Anti-Anti-Relativism? Epistemological and Rhetorical Moves in Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science: European Journal of Women's Studies Vol 12(4) Nov 2005, 407-419.
  • Kalff, D. (2007). The relativization of the ego: Journal of Sandplay Therapy Vol 16(2) 2007, 43-47.
  • Kopelman, L. M. (2005). The Incompatibility of the United Nations' Goals and Conventionalist Ethical Relativism: Developing World Bioethics Vol 5(3) Sep 2005, 234-243.
  • Lansky, M. R. (1999). Perspectives on perspectivism: Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 6(3) Sep 1999, 179-180.
  • Latner, J. (2008). Commentary I: Relativistic quantum field theory: Implications for Gestalt therapy (or, the speed of light revisited): Gestalt Review Vol 12(1) 2008, 24-31.
  • Lehrer, R. (1999). Approaching perspectivism: A response to the commentaries: Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 6(3) Sep 1999, 191-198.
  • Lehrer, R. (1999). Perspectivism and psychodynamic psychotherapy: Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 6(3) Sep 1999, 155-166.
  • Leon, J. A., & Perez, O. (1996). Relativist attitude towards reading contradictory information in newspaper articles: Infancia y Aprendizaje No 74 1996, 99-117.
  • Lieberman, P. B. (1999). Perspectivism, realism and psychotherapy: Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 6(3) Sep 1999, 181-186.
  • Liebrucks, A. (2001). The concept of social construction: Theory & Psychology Vol 11(3) Jun 2001, 363-391.
  • Lucy, J. A. (1997). Linguistic relativity: Annual Review of Anthropology Vol 26 1997, 291-312.
  • Mace, C. (1999). On putting psychoanalysis into a Nietzschean perspective: Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 6(3) Sep 1999, 187-189.
  • Malone, J. A. (1960). An existential analysis of modern psychology: The Canadian Psychologist Vol 1a(2) Apr 1960, 38-44.
  • Markman, A. B. (2008). Commentary: Pluralism, relativism and the proper use of theories: Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence Vol 20(3) Sep 2008, 247-250.
  • Martinez, M. M., & Tarres, J. P. (2003). Situated Knowledge: A Struggle between Constructionist, Relativism and the Necessity to Ground Action: Revista Interamericana de Psicologia Vol 37(2) 2003, 295-307.
  • May, K. M. (1998). Family Counseling: Cultural Sensitivity, Relativism, and the Cultural Defense: The Family Journal Vol 6(4) Oct 1998, 296-299.
  • McHoskey, J. W., Betris, T., Worzel, W., Szyarto, C., Kelly, K., Eggert, T., et al. (1999). Relativism, nihilism, and quest: Journal of Social Behavior & Personality Vol 14(3) Sep 1999, 445-462.
  • McNeill, T. (2006). Evidence-Based Practice in an Age of Relativism: Toward a Model for Practice: Social Work Vol 51(2) Apr 2006, 147-156.
  • Meara, A. (2008). Commentary II: Relativistic quantum field theory: Implications for Gestalt theory: Gestalt Review Vol 12(1) 2008, 32-39.
  • Molinari, J. M. (2002). Realism, relativism and psychology: Ethical and political concerns of praxis in social psychology: Acta Psiquiatrica y Psicologica de America Latina Vol 48(1-4) Mar 2002, 31-42.
  • Moll, I. (1995). Cultural People and Cultural Contexts: Comments on Cole (1995) and Wertsch (1995): Culture & Psychology Vol 1(3) Sep 1995, 361-371.
  • Montgomery, D. E., Sandberg, E., & Zimmerman, A. (2005). Folk Epistemology in Religious and Natural Domains of Knowledge: Journal of Psychology and Christianity Vol 24(1) Spr 2005, 3-12.
  • O'Neill, B. (2008). Relativistic quantum field theory: Implications for Gestalt therapy: Gestalt Review Vol 12(1) 2008, 7-23.
  • O'Neill, B. (2008). "Relativistic quantum field theory: Implications for Gestalt therapy": Response: Gestalt Review Vol 12(1) 2008, 40-42.
  • Parker, I. (1999). Against relativism in psychology, on balance: History of the Human Sciences Vol 12(4) Nov 1999, 61-78.
  • Pearson, K. A. (1999). Perspectivism and relativism beyond the postmodern condition: Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 6(3) Sep 1999, 167-171.
  • Peile, C., & McCouat, M. (1997). The rise of relativism: The future of theory and knowledge development in social work: British Journal of Social Work Vol 27(3) Jun 1997, 343-360.
  • Phillips, J. (1998). Commentary on "Relativism and the social-constructivist paradigm." Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology Vol 5(1) Mar 1998, 55-59.
  • Pilling, M., & Davies, I. R. L. (2004). Linguistic relativism and colour cognition: British Journal of Psychology Vol 95(4) Nov 2004, 429-455.
  • Pleh, C. (2000). Issues of relativism and contemporary psycholinguistics: Pszichologia: Az MTA Pszichologiai Intezetenek folyoirata Vol 20(3) 2000, 215-241.
  • Poortinga, Y. H., & Van Hemert, D. A. (2001). Personality and culture demarcating between the common and the unique: Journal of Personality Vol 69(6) Dec 2001, 1033-1060.
  • Potter, J., Edwards, D., & Ashmore, M. (1999). Regulating criticism: Some comments on an argumentative complex: History of the Human Sciences Vol 12(4) Nov 1999, 79-88.
  • Raskin, J. D. (2001). On relativism in constructivist psychology: Journal of Constructivist Psychology Vol 14(4) Oct-Dec 2001, 285-313.
  • Rennie, D. L. (2000). Grounded theory methodology as methodical hermeneutics: Reconciling realism and relativism: Theory & Psychology Vol 10(4) Aug 2000, 481-501.
  • Samuels, A. (2007). Muriel Dimen interviewed by Andrew Samuels in the context of the publication of her book, Sexuality, intimacy, and power: Studies in Gender and Sexuality Vol 8(4) Fal 2007, 383-393.
  • Sasso, G. M. (2001). The retreat from inquiry and knowledge in special education: The Journal of Special Education Vol 34(4) Win 2001, 178-193.
  • Sciulli, D. (1992). Habermas, critical theory, and the relativistic predicament: Symbolic Interaction Vol 15(3) Aug 1992, 299-313.
  • Sechrest, L. (1978). The Standard Error of the Difference: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 23 (4), Apr, 1978.
  • Slife, B. D. (2004). Taking Practice Seriously: Toward a Relational Ontology: Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology Vol 24(2) Fal 2004, 157-178.
  • Spiro, M. E. (2001). Cultural determinism, cultural relativism, and the comparative study of psychopathology: Ethos Vol 29(2) Jun 2001, 218-234.
  • Tolman, C. (1984). Review of Rationality and Relativism: Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne Vol 25(1) Jan 1984, 66-68.
  • Wainryb, C., Shaw, L. A., Langley, M., Cottam, K., & Lewis, R. (2004). Children's Thinking About Diversity of Belief in the Early School Years: Judgments of Relativism, Tolerance, and Disagreeing Persons: Child Development Vol 75(3) May-Jun 2004, 687-703.
  • Watson, P. J. (2004). After postmodernism: Perspectivism, a Christian epistemology of love, and the ideological surround: Journal of Psychology & Theology Vol 32(3) Fal 2004, 248-261.
  • Wolf, C. (1990). Relative advantage: Symbolic Interaction Vol 13(1) May 1990, 37-61.
  • Yurtsever, G. (1998). Ethical beliefs and creativity: Journal of Social Behavior & Personality Vol 13(4) Dec 1998, 747-754.


  • Keller, C. E., Jr. (1998). An experimental investigation of how ethical orientations, tax rates, penalty rates, and audit rates affect tax compliance decisions. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Peterman, B. S. (1998). Piaget's "decentration" from Levy-Bruhl to Habermas: Multidisciplinary theory-building. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Starkey, P. L. (1999). Whistleblowing behavior: The impact of situational and personality variables. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).