Cover: The Metaphysics and Ethics of Relativism, from Harvard University PressCover: The Metaphysics and Ethics of Relativism in HARDCOVER

The Metaphysics and Ethics of Relativism

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$48.00 • £38.95 • €43.00

ISBN 9780674725713

Publication Date: 12/16/2013


304 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 halftone


Rovane breaks new ground in an otherwise-tired debate between ‘relativists,’ ‘objectivists,’ and ‘absolutists.’ One of the book’s signal achievements lies in clarifying the nature of relativism, whether in its metaphysical or ethical guise. People (especially, but not only) from different cultures inhabit different ‘worlds.’ The author calls this ‘multimundialism,’ and it leads to one of her principal substantive theses: a person/people can reject the beliefs of another/others without claiming that the rejected beliefs are false. Ethics, thus, is more than a matter of taste and sentiment. Furthermore, people occupying different ‘worlds’ can rightly reject others’ claims and stay committed to their own without judging those of others to be false. Along the way, Rovane engages with leading contemporary philosophers, including G. Harman, D. Davidson, R. Rorty, and J. Raz… Rovane’s book deserves a careful reading; it is thoughtful, thorough, substantive, clear, and challenging.—H. Oberdiek, Choice

This is an excellent readable and informative book discussing a particularly interesting kind of ‘relativism.’ Perhaps the most important contribution of the book (but by far from the only one) is its careful explication of the relevant sort of relativism as an instance of what Carol Rovane calls ‘multimundialism’: the thesis that one person might reject another’s beliefs without supposing that the other beliefs fail to be true. Along the way there is much useful discussion of potentially relevant ideas in the history of philosophy through such twentieth-century figures as Rudolf Carnap, W.V. Quine, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feuerabend, Richard Rorty, and Donald Davidson. This is the best discussion of relativism that I know of.—Gilbert Harman, Princeton University

In recent years, the issue of relativism has been hotly discussed by the philosophical community, and a number of good books have been dedicated to the issue. However, to my knowledge no thorough general and methodical analysis has been offered of what the content of this doctrine exactly is. Carol Rovane’s The Metaphysics and Ethics of Relativism finally fills this relevant gap in the philosophical literature. This is a thoughtful, original, and very deep book. In the next decades it will very probably represent a milestone in the debate on relativism.—Mario De Caro, Università Roma Tre and Tufts University

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