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Scandalous KnowledgeScience, Truth and the Human$
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Barbara Herrnstein Smith

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748620234

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748620234.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 13 October 2019

Pre-Post-Modern Relativism

Pre-Post-Modern Relativism

(p.18) Chapter 2 Pre-Post-Modern Relativism
Scandalous Knowledge

Barbara Herrnstein Smith

Edinburgh University Press

The second chapter offers historical perspectives on the charge of relativism recurrently lodged against challenges to traditional claims of absolute, objective and/or universal truth. It begins by examining a set of current denunciations of “postmodern relativism" that involve, respectively, historians' treatments of the Holocaust and journalistic responses to the 9/11 attacks. It goes on to discuss the work of several important intellectual historians, who, along with various avant-garde artists, critics and writers, were identified with relativism in the Modernist period. It concludes with the suggestion that the “relativism” denounced in these and comparable cases (e. g., constructivist science studies, multiculturalist literary theory or cosmopolitan political theory) is a phantom heresy, with claims and implications (quietism, pessimism, solipsism, the equality of everything, etc.) that are maintained by nobody and not logically implied but invoked by anti-relativists to protect dubious orthodoxy under siege.

Keywords:   truth, postmodernism, relativism, anti-relativism, Holocaust, 9/11 attacks, Modernism, constructivism, multiculturalism, science studies

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