Cultural wars and cultural relativism

Mauro W. Barbosa de Almeida

In recent debates known as "the culture wars", Sokal and Bricmont have challenged what they call "intellectual fraud" perpetrated by social scientists/philosophers/cultural critics who mention science (or make use of scientific argument) in order to support relativistic stances. A paradigmatic example of "intellectual fraud" would be the statement that the number p is "socially constructed". Through a discussion of this example, the author proposes an alternative point of view based on what he calls a moderate version of relativism. This version relies on the notion that it is always possible to translate between distinct ontologies, thus guaranteeing intersubjectivity and, consequently, objectivity. Finally, he argues against Sokal and Bricmont's intent of imposing rules for the good usage of metaphors in the human sciences.

Culture; Relativism; Human sciences; Sokal


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