The Relativity of Knowledge and Relativism

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A well known fragment attributed to Protagoras says, “Man is the measure of all things, of the things that are, that they are, and of the things that are not, that they are not.” The fragment means that man determines a concept and criterion of objectivity, even of truth in general. As the grammatical subject of the sentence, "man,”is variously taken to mean an individual person, a culture, the human species or the transcendental subject, the fragment comes to express, respectively, individualistic relativism, cultural relativism, species universalism, and transcendental idealism. Individualistic relativism and cultural relativism deny. while species relativism and transcendental relativism affirm, universally valid human norms of knowledge. But all of the four views admit the relativity of the objects of human awareness to subjective conditions. Even if objects of human awareness are things in themselves, as according to what Kant calls transcendent realism, the humnan subject's passive representing function is necessary for their appearance to its awareness. In this presentation it is argued that an epistemological controversy and epistemological constructions presuppose a discourse in which the parties to the controversy participate with consensus on some rules of the discourse. Those epistemological views that assert or imply the impossibility of such a discourse are untenable. Epistemology should be maximally reflective and question its own possibility.


Keywords: Relativity of knowledge, Relativism, Subjective Conditions of Knowledge, Universally Valid Epistemic Norms
Stream: Knowledge
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Relativity of Knowledge and Relativism, The


Prof. Chin-Tai Kim

Department of Philosophy
College of Arts and Sciences, Case Western Reserve University

Shaker Heights, Ohio, USA

A.B., Brown University; Ph.D.,Harvard University. Currently, Professor of Philosophy at Case Western Reserve University. Teaches Greek philosophy, 17th and 18th Century Philosophy, 19th Century Philosophy, the Phenomenological Tradition, Foundations of Ethics, Metaphysics and Epistemology, Philosophy of Religion, East-West Comparative Philosophy. Publications on Descartes, Kant, Brentano, Husserl, topics in ethics, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion.

Ref: H08P0229