PHIL 380
Relativism Fall 2016
Division II Writing Skills
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The aim of the course is to survey, analyze and discuss many varieties of relativism–semantic, epistemic, ontological and moral–from Plato’s Theaetetus to contemporary social constructivism. We will pay special attention to the structure of arguments for and against relativism, as well as to the philosophical motivations and perceived consequences of its endorsement or rejection. We will thus be led to discuss some of the concepts common to epistemology, metaphysics and ethics: reason, justification, objectivity, understanding, reality and truth. Some of the questions we will consider are: Are moral standards relative to cultural frameworks? Are there incompatible but equally true ways of describing the world? Is rationality relative to cultural norms? Is relativism a form of skepticism? Is it forced on people who endorse cultural pluralism as their political ideal as the only tenable philosophical position? Our readings will include the relevant works of Plato, Sextus Empiricus, Carnap, Quine, Davidson, Goodman, Elgin, Hacking, Krausz, Foot, and Williams, among others.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 7-10
Class#: 1833
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class attendance, preparedness and presentation; weekly small group discussions and one or two group presentations in class; three short writing assignments (1-2 pgs. each) and three 5 pages long papers
Prerequisites: two philosophy courses, or consent of the instructor
Enrollment Preferences: Philosophy majors and intended majors
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Attributes: PHIL Contemp Metaphysics & Epistemology Courses

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