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Why (Wittgensteinian) Contextualism Is Not Relativism

  • Michael Williams

Abstract

This article distinguishes Wittgensteinian contextualism from epistemic relativism. The latter involves the view that a belief’s status as justified depends on the believer’s epistemic system, as well as the view that no system is superior to another. It emerges from the thought that we must rely, circularly, on our epistemic system to determine whether any belief is justified. Contextualism, by contrast, emerges from the thought that we need not answer a skeptical challenge to a belief unless there is good reason to doubt the belief; so we need not rely on our epistemic system to determine whether a belief is justified. Accordingly contextualism is not committed to the view that a belief’s status depends on the believer’s epistemic system, nor to the view that no system is superior to another. The contextualist is not committed to epistemic relativism.

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Williams, Michael. 1996. Unnatural Doubts. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Williams, Michael. 1999. “Skepticism.” Pp. 3569 in A Companion to Epistemology, ed. Greco, John and Sosa, Ernest, Oxford: Blackwell.
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Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1969. On Certainty, trans. Paul, Denis and Anscombe, G. E. M.. New York: Harper.

Why (Wittgensteinian) Contextualism Is Not Relativism

  • Michael Williams

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