Epistemic Relativism: A Constructive Critique by Markus Seidel (auth.)

By Markus Seidel (auth.)

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Secondly, at some points in the following argument it is necessary to refer to some ideas 42 Epistemic Relativism that are very similar to my convictions but that must be distinguished from these. Thus, in this section I will distinguish between my convictions and quite similar ideas that should, however, be acceptable also for those who do not share my convictions. Therefore, this section will provide some ground to avoid misunderstandings. Thirdly, in Chapter 3 I will present one very fundamental argument of the epistemic relativist – the so-called ‘argument from norm-circularity’ – and will argue that this argument does not sustain the epistemic relativist’s conclusion.

Before I come to how exactly epistemic relativism should be understood in this book, some remarks are necessary on what epistemic norms are supposed to be. It was just stated that – analogously to moral relativism – epistemic relativism should be understood as the thesis that the truth of statements or beliefs that include terms like ‘justified’ is relative because the correctness of epistemic norms and/or epistemic systems is relative. In this book I will formulate epistemic norms40 roughly along the following schema: (Norm-Schema) If X such that p, then person P is prima facie justified in believing p.

Definition of Epistemic Relativism I take this to be given by the following four theses. (Fault-Dis) People using different epistemic systems (consisting of epistemic standards) can faultlessly disagree over the question whether a given belief is epistemically justified or not. (No-Trans) Beliefs can be justified only within epistemic systems. (This thesis can be called Non-Transcendency) (Dif-Epi-Strong) There are people using radically different epistemic systems for which (Fault-Dis) applies.

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