They say that relativism can not be affirmed without contradiction because to do so would imply that relativism had truth in an absolute sense. Is this simply an oversimplification or a strawman?

I suspect that one can affirm relativism without contradiction provided one is willing to embrace an endless regress . One can affirm the following statements: (R1) No statement is true except relative to some perspective (or worldview, or standard, or set of assumptions, or conceptual scheme). (R2) Statement R1 is true, but only relative to some perspective (or worldview, or standard, or set of assumptions, or conceptual scheme). (R3) Statement R2 is true, but only relative to some perspective (or worldview, or standard, or set of assumptions, or conceptual scheme). ...and so on without end. The endless regress allows one to postpone indefinitely any commitment to a non-relative truth. To be fair, however, one might wonder whether such a position has any cognitive content and, even if it does, whether our finite minds can truly understand such a position. For more, you might consult the detailed SEP entry on relativism available at this link .

Is length an intrinsic property or is it something which is only relative to other lengths? Is an inch an inch? Or is it simply a relation between other (length) phenomena?

Interesting questions. As I understand it, special relativity in physics says that having a particular length isn't intrinsic to an object, because observers in various "inertial frames of reference" can measure different values for the length of an object without any of them being mistaken: the length of an object is always relative to an inertial frame, and no inertial frame is objectively more correct than any other. As for units of length such as an inch, I'm inclined to say that they're always relative to some physical standard, whether the standard is a single physical object such as a platinum bar or, instead, some physical phenomenon like the path traveled by light in a given period of time (with units of time also being physically defined). In a universe containing no physical standard that defines an inch, nothing has any length in inches even if things have lengths in (say) centimeters when a physical standard exists for the centimeter. I hesitate a bit in holding this position,...

In reply to a recent question about whether aesthetic judgments are reliable Stephen Maitzen wrote http://www.askphilosophers.org/question/5097 "(1) We often seem to make objective aesthetic judgments, such as the judgments concerning Bach and Rihanna that you mentioned in your question; why not take those judgments at face value? Why think we have to interpret those judgments as non-objective?" Often we (or some of us) feel that the aesthetic value of a work derives from an ontological sense that the music represents, expresses or even manifests a higher reality. We don't take Rhianna very seriously as a great artist because her music doesn't seem to convey anything of profound importance. We can feel that way even if we happen to enjoy her music a lot. If we listen to Suite Number 3 in D Major by Bach we might feel that the music conveys something grand but we can't say for certain what. It's that lack of certainty about what is conveyed by the music that I think makes people question the validity of...

Thanks for your reply. As I did in my previous answer , let me emphasize that aesthetics isn't my specialty, so I hope specialists will come forward to answer your questions. I'm not sure what to say about the idea that a musical work "conveys something grand" or "manifests a higher reality" than what's manifested by another musical work. So I'll leave that to others to address. But we might just compare Bach and Rihanna in terms of the harmonic and rhythmic complexity of their music; their inventiveness in developing a theme during the course of a piece; their skill in writing for various instruments; whether they incorporate enough surprise in a piece to maintain our interest yet not so much that the piece lacks integrity; and so on. Pop music almost always strikes me as very simple music -- it's often more "ear candy" than something having subtle flavors -- which may explain its mass appeal. Now, it's probably unfair to compare Rihanna to Bach, because by definition Bach's music has stood the...

Are mathematical truths such as 2+2 =4 arguable exceptions to the correspondence theory of truth? I mean is 2+2=4 a truth that corresponds to "the world"?

I don't think mathematical truths pose a special problem for the correspondence theory of truth (see this link for more about the theory). The correspondence theorist can interpret "the world" broadly enough to include abstract objects, aspects of mathematical reality, and so on. In other words, "the world" needn't be restricted to the physical universe.

I am really fascinated with Hume's discovery that an "ought" cannot be derived from an "is." However, I've also read that the argument of Hume is a failure. My question then is, what can be the most reasonable response to this accusation of Hume? Is he right or wrong on the matter?

I prefer to think of it as Hume's claim rather than Hume's discovery, since "discovery" implies the truth of what's discovered, and I think Hume was wrong, at least on what seems to me the most natural interpretation of what he says in the Treatise of Human Nature . But the interpretation is part of the problem; scholars disagree on what Hume meant. There's a magazine article on this topic, written by one of Hume's defenders, at this link . There's also a recent collection of essays, Hume on Is and Ought (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), that goes into minute detail on the interpretation and evaluation of Hume's claim.

Can a thing being distinct from something else be considered a property of that thing? (If my mind is distinct from my body can "being distinct from my body" be considered a property of my mind. It seems to me that if something is distinct from something else it is separate from it and therefore cannot somehow be considered a property of it. But I have a feeling I am missing something. Thank you Samantha R.

Thanks, Samantha, for your question. You wrote, "It seems to me that if something is distinct from something else it is separate from it and therefore cannot...be considered a property of it." But notice that in the typical case -- and certainly in all concrete cases -- an object is distinct from each of its properties. Any red ball is distinct from the properties being red , being a ball (etc.) that the ball instantiates: the ball is a material object, but its properties are abstract objects rather than material objects, so they must be distinct from the ball. So if being distinct from your body is a property of your mind, it will be distinct from your mind. As I see it, the properties of an object are never parts of the object, so they can be (as you say) separate from the object while still being properties of the object.

Is the positing of an infinite regress a legitimate explanation in philosophy respectively are infinite regresses logically possible?

Are infinite regresses logically possible? Surely it's logically possible for infinitely many positive or negative integers to exist, and they represent a kind of infinite regress: for every negative integer, there's a smaller one; for every positive integer, there's a larger one. Even those who say that only potentially infinite collections (and not actually infinite collections) are possible must admit the possibility of infinite regresses of this numerical kind. Is the positing of an infinite regress a legitimate explanation in philosophy? I don't see why it couldn't be. It seems to me that the burden rests with whoever denies the acceptability of an infinite regress of explanations. Indeed, I think infinite regresses of explanations are unavoidable given some highly plausible assumptions.

We often hear people saying about how a certain artist or composer is better than another. Many people, for example, believe Bach and Verdi to be better musicians than, say, Rihanna or Justin Bieber. I share this same belief, but it is mostly based on intuition than on rational arguments. It is certainly true that Bach was able to develop a musical theme in a much more organized and logical way than Rihanna is, but does it really mean that Bach is a better musician than Rihanna? Is it true that there is such thing as a good and a bad composer or is it all just a matter of taste? Could you point out to me some arguments and readings which are relevant to this type of question?

Aesthetics isn't my area, but since no one else has responded I'll take a stab at it. To someone who thinks that aesthetic judgments can't be objectively true or false -- someone who thinks that aesthetic judgments are in that respect fundamentally subjective -- I'd pose two questions: (1) We often seem to make objective aesthetic judgments, such as the judgments concerning Bach and Rihanna that you mentioned in your question; why not take those judgments at face value? Why think we have to interpret those judgments as non-objective? (2) If there's a worry that aesthetic judgments can't be objectively true or false, does that worry extend to normative judgments in general , including the judgment that some ways of reasoning are better than others or that some ways of treating people are better than others? If it does, then it's a worry about objective normative judgments in general rather than aesthetic judgments in particular. If it doesn't, then what makes aesthetic judgments less likely to...

Are 3 and √9 the same mathematical object (in light of the fact that they have the same numerical value), or are they distinct mathematical objects? In other words, are the expressions '3' and '√9' co-referential names (both referring to the number 3), or do they refer to different objects?

If "√9" refers to the positive square root of 9 (I'm not sure what the convention is concerning the square-root symbol), then I'd say that 3 and √9 are the same object, just as Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens are the same object. (Indeed, the plural verb "are" in each case is a bit of loose talk.) Leibniz's Law (the Indiscernibility of Identicals) therefore implies that everything true of 3 is true of √9, and everything true of Twain is true of Clemens, which seems right to me.

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