Archive for July 23rd, 2020

July 23, 2020

Science and Relativism

by Neil Rickert

I have been procrastinating on posting this.  I want to say more about truth and how it is actually used.  So I’ll start with a review of the book “Science and Relativism” by Larry Laudan.

I’ll note that the book was published in 1990.  I purchased it, maybe 15 or more years ago.  I recently returned to it for a second reading.

The author, Larry Laudan, is a philosopher of science.  I assume that he is semi-retired by now, but that’s just a guess.

In this post, I shall mainly refrain from expressing my view of the issues.  I plan a followup post where I present that.

What is relativism?

Broadly, relativism if the position that something is relative to something else.  And cultural relativism is that something is relative to culture and cultural traditions.  Most commonly, we hear of moral relativism.  However, when discussing science the issue typically has to do with scientific conclusions and scientific truth.

I’ll quote Laudan from his preface:

But it can be defined, to a first order of approximation, as the thesis that the natural world and such evidence as we have about that world do little or nothing to constrain our beliefs.  In a phrase, the relativists’ slogan is “The way we take things to be is quite independent of the way things are.”

read more »