The Emergence of Relativism - Historical, Philosophical and Sociological Perspectives

  • Kusch, Martin (Projektleiter*in)
  • Umscheider, Ernestine (Projektadministrator*in)

Projekt: Forschungsförderung



Although philosophers as well as scientists are frequently involved in debates over the threat or promise of relativism, there has been little detailed historical, philosophical or sociological work on its emergence and early development. This project addresses this lacuna in a fundamentally new way: it investigates the history of relativism in the German-speaking world (and to some degree, beyond) in the 19th and early 20th century across several disciplines--philosophy, physiology, psychology, history, linguistics, theology, law, linguistics, anthropology, sociology--using integrated historical, sociological and philosophical methods.

The main objectives of this project are thus to:

(1) retrace the intellectual history of the emergence of important forms of relativism (and the counterpart versions of anti-relativism) in 19th and early-20th-century German-speaking philosophy and science;

(2) explain some key junctures of this intellectual history in sociological terms; and

(3) critically evaluate the central arguments for and against relativism as they evolved in the period under investigation, and as they have been developed further in more recent discussions.

Accordingly, the overall project has three main perspectives: Intellectual History of Philosophy and the Sciences, Sociology of Knowledge, and Philosophy.

Methodologically, the project will be innovative in building on the tensions between these three perspectives. E.g. philosophical studies on causal explanation will be used to sharpen sociological or historical analyses. And these analyses will in turn suggest new forms of philosophical reflection on the determinants of intellectual content.

The results of this project are bound to benefit all of the mentioned disciplines in which debates over relativism loom large. Some of the results will be of significance also to wider social debates over, say, multiculturalism or pluralism (themes beyond the immediate focus of the project).
Tatsächlicher Beginn/ -es Ende1/06/1431/05/19