Relativism and our warrant for scientific theories
Abstract:We depend upon the community for justified belief in scientific theory. This dependence can suggest that our individual belief in scientific theory is justified because the community believes it to be justified. This idea is at the heart of an anti-realist epistemology according to which there are no facts about justification that transcend a community's judgement thereof. Ultimately, knowledge and justified belief are simply social statuses. When conjoined with the lemma that communities can differ in what they accept as justified, epistemological anti-realism entails epistemological relativism. Further, this lemma can also be used to generate an argument for relativism and, thereby, for anti-realism. So if an epistemologically realist account of our justification for belief in scientific theory is to be given, then it must be possible, first, to defend a realist interpretation of the idea that individual belief can be community-justified and second, to defend it in a way that is compatible with the fact of possible community diversity. This paper tries to meet these challenges.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2004-01-01