Rationality and rehabilitation of relativism

Publication Type:


Transliteration of original Title: 
Ratsional'nost' i reabilitatsiya relyativizma
Anatoliy Rakitov
Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences
Issue number: 
No.1 (Vol.51)

The problem of the rationality of knowledge and subject-practical activities were widely discussed in the second half of XX and early XXI century. Special attention was attracted to scientific rationality. Supporters of the concept of post-non-classical science consider that it captures not only the status of objective reality and subjective practice, but some cultural, historical and value characteristics of human activity and its reflection in epistemology and philosophy of science. The author aims to challenge this position. He agrees with the researchers who are skeptical concerning methodological, social, subjective, material and epistemological significance of the concept of “rationality”, and rationalism itself as its basis. The concept of epistemological square suggests structurally clear, formalized scheme of science and scientific research and shows that concepts of relativity and relativism provide as a rule more adequate basis for structures and processes of scientific research. Some examples from natural and social sciences show that relativity inherent to all complex cognitive systems. Relativism in a broad philosophical sense is a concept that emphasizes that knowledge as ordinary as scientific contains a significant element of tradition and conventionality. This creates greater scope for freedom of choice of scientific hypotheses, models of explanation and prediction. Relativism does not automatically lead to agnosticism and subjectivism. But on the contrary it opens a greater space for freedom of intellectual creativity. So the qualification of the philosophical and epistemological relativism as a danger for science is inadequate. The author believes that a comprehensive analysis of the epistemic potential of relativism could become an important issue for discussion by experts in the field of epistemology and philosophy of science.

rationality, rationalism, epistemological square, relativity, relativism, properties and relations

             Boghossian P. What is Relativism? // Truth and Realism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006, pp. 13–37.

            Kasavin, I.T. Sokuler, Z.A. Racional’nost’ v poznanii i praktike [Rationality in knowledge and practice]. Moscow: Nauka, 1989. 192 p. (In Russian)

            Lektorskiy V.A. Relyativizm kak bolezn’ sovremennoy filosofii  [Relativism as a malady of modern philosophy]. Moscow: «Kanon+» ROOI «Reabilitaciya», 2015. 392 p. (In Russian)

            Mamchur E.A. Obektivnost’ nauki i relyativizm [The objectivity of science and relativism]. Moscow: IFRAN, 2004. 242 p. (In Russian)

                Mikeshina L.A. Relyativizm kak epistemologicheskaya problema [Relativism as an epistemological problem]. In: Epistemology and philosophy of science, 2004, vol. 1, no. 1. pp. 53–63. (In Russian)

                Pazenok V.S. Apologiya amoralizma: kriticheskiy ocherk burzhuaznogo eticheskogo relyativizma [The Apology of amoralism: a critical essay of bourgeois ethical relativism]. Moscow: Mysl’, 1982. 231 p. (In Russian)

            Popper K.R. Otkrytoe obschestvo i ego vragi. V 2-kh tomakh. T. 2 [The Open Society and Its Enemies.Vol.2.]. Moscow:  Feniks, Mezhdunarodnyy fond «Kul’turnaya iniciativa», 1992. 528 p. (In Russian)

            Porus V.N. Paradoksal’naya racional’nost’[Paradoxical Rationality]. In: Racional’nost’ na pereput’e. V 2-kh knigakh. Kn. 1 [Rationality at the Crossroads. In 2 books. Book 1]. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 1999, pp. 338–339. (In Russian)

                Rakitov A.I. Epistemologiya social’no-gumanitarnykh nauk [Epistemology of the Social Sciences and Humanities]. In: Voprosy filosofii, 2016, no. 9, pp. 63–71. (In Russian)
            Stepin V.S. Teoreticheskoe znanie [Theoretical Knowledge]. Moscow: Nauka, 2000, pp. 633–634. (In Russian)

            Trufanov D.O. Racional’nost’ kak fundamental’naya kharakteristika social’nykh sistem. Postneklassicheskiy (universumnyy) podkhod [Rationality as a fundamental characteristic of social systems. Post-nonclassical (Universum) approach]. Krasnoyarsk: SFU, 2013. 124 p. (In Russian)

            Schoek H. Zavist’: teoriya social’nogo povedeniya [Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour]. Moscow: IRISEN, 2008. 544 p. (In Russian)

Full Text: