A Defence of Relativism
During his four month fellowship at the IFK David Bloor will work on the preparation of a book on the much-debated and controversial subject of relativism, that is, the doctrine that all knowledge claims, whether about the physical world or moral principles, are incapable of absolute justification and hence are inescapably grounded in local circumstances and contingencies. All knowledge and morality are to be understood in historical and naturalistic terms as the accomplishments of human agents acting in society. The aim will be to defend a relativist position, answer the main objections that are always advanced against it, and expose the confusions of existing forms of anti-relativism.
David Bloor was educated at the University of Keele and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was Lecturer, Reader, and Professor at the University of Edinburgh, where he became the Director of the Science Studies Unit. He is now Professor emeritus. His main research interests and publications have been in the sociology, history, and philosophy of science. Along with colleagues in Edinburgh, he was one of the founders of what is called “the strong programme in the sociology of knowledge”.
The Enigma of the Aerofoil: Rival Theories in Aerodynamics, 1909–1930, Chicago 2011; Wittgenstein on Rules and Institutions, London 1997; Wittgenstein: A Social Theory of Knowledge, Hampshire 1983; Knowledge and Social Imagery, London 1976.
Both the philosopher Karl Popper and the physicist Philipp Frank had close personal connections with Vienna and were responsive to the political forces that impinged on its cultural life. By the late 1930s both had left central Europe and both had engaged with the topic of relativism. Both found the theme of relativism to be important for their work on scientific methodology and for exploring the relation of scientific knowledge to its social context. David Bloor uncovers the traces of the relativism debates.