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Topic description / abstract:
This paper discusses relativism in (some areas) of contemporary philosophy (and sociology) of science. I shall begin with explaining what I mean by epistemic relativism. Subsequently, I shall briefly suggest that Kuhn, Feyerabend, Giere’s perspectivism and Chang’s pluralism all fall within the relativist spectrum as I understand it. The main body of my talk will be a discussion of Bas van Fraassen’s relativism in the philosophy of science. I shall outline relativist motifs in three of his books, and conclude with a critical investigation into strengths and weaknesses of his position.
Martin Kusch is Professor of Applied Philosophy of Science and Epistemology at the University of Vienna. He came to Vienna from Cambridge where he held a personal chair in philosophy and sociology of science. He is a fellow of the Finnish Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Academia Europaea. He is a member of the Institut International de Philosophie, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Oulu (Finland), where he also did his PhD (under the supervision of Jaakko Hintikka). He won an ERC Advanced Grant in 2014. He has been a visiting fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. -- Much of his work brings together philosophy and the social sciences: in the form of sociology of philosophy, philosophy of the social sciences, social epistemology, or relativistic sociology of knowledge. His book Relativism in the Philosophy of Science is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, and a book on Georg Simmel as an early philosopher of the social sciences is in preparation.