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Philosophical Relativity [Paperback]

by Peter Unger

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Book Description

October 3, 2002 019515553X 978-0195155532
In this short but meaty book, Peter Unger questions the objective answers that have been given to central problems in philosophy. As Unger hypothesizes, many of these problems are unanswerable, including the problems of knowledge and scepticism, the problems of free will, and problems of causation and explanation. In each case, he argues, we arrive at one answer only relative to an assumption about the meaning of key terms, terms like "know" and like "cause," even while we arrive at an opposite answer relative to quite different assumptions, but equally arbitrary assumptions, about what the key terms mean.

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Current debates about contextualism in epistemology begin with Philosophical Relativity, where Unger gives the term 'contextualism' the meaning that, in many philosophical circles, it enjoys today, and gives the position designated by the term its first serious and systematic treatment. Few are likely to accept Unger's 'relativistic' conclusion that the advantages and disadvantages of contextualism and its rival, invariantism, balance out in such a way that there simply is no fact of the matter which is the correct theory, but all who want to think seriously about the issue should confront the challenging arguments in this seminal book."--Keith DeRose, Yale University


"If you didn't read this book first time, read it now. It packs a punch fit to stop a whole school of philosophy dead in its tracks, with no guarantee that it will ever move again. Those who think that a philosophical inquiry has to start with a decision about the exact meanings of the key terms need to work out their answer to this one from Peter Unger."--Edward Craig, Cambridge University


"Philosophical Relativity is a seminal text in the debate on contextualism, which blames philosophical problems on the hidden dependence of meaning on context. Unger's questions are even more urgent today than when he wrote."--Timothy Williamson, Oxford University


"First-rate philosophy, philosophy as it ought to be done."--Gilbert Harman, Princeton University


"OUP has done well to reissue Peter Unger's books in epistemology, both Ignorance and Philosophical Relativity Unger follows the argument to great depth, wherever it may lead, and the reader who follows along will be amply rewarded, which shows how impressively fresh and relevant this work remains after all these years."--Ernest Sosa, Brown University


"In his last book, Peter Unger set out to persuade us of a thorough-going skepticism; in the present one, he sets out to persuade us that it is fundamentally indeterminate whether (for example) the thorough-going skeptic of the person of common sense is right. But even if this is his newest doctrinal anarchism, there is nothing anarchic about the style of Philosophical Relativity. The argument is well-organized, and the exposition is lucid. Nor is there anything bombastic in Unger's medium to match his would-be devastating message; the reader is coaxed along gently but persistently."--Jennifer Hornsby, University of London


"This is an intelligent and highly original critique, clearly and even gracefully written, with a refreshing absence of pedantry."--Sir Peter Strawson, Oxford University


About the Author


Peter Unger is Professor of Philosophy at New York University. He is the author of Ignorance (OUP 1975, 2002), Identity, Consciousness, and Value (OUP 1990), and Living High and Letting Die (1996)

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