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Dictionary

RELATIVISM

Mark J. Smith

There is considerable variety in the uses of the term relativism, but all endorse the view that no single absolute principle or concept is adequate to explain and understand events and states of affairs in all times and places, and that no single criterion holds for attributing value. By challenging the idea that universal statements can be established or that universal entities exist, relativism undermines truth, objectivity and the necessity of foundations. Nevertheless, there are two quite different interpretations of what this means. One case for relativism asserts that no description can be true, no approach can be privileged and that no assessment of the value of human conduct is valid. Another case merely claims that all descriptions are equally true, all approaches have the same standing and all considerations of value are equally valid (Harré and Krausz, 1996). These two interpretations, which can be described as the strident case ...

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