Epistemic relativism, epistemic incommensurability, and Wittgensteinian epistemology

Duncan Pritchard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


A certain conception of a specifically epistemic form of relativism is discussed, one that is brought to the fore by a particular problem that arises in the epistemology of disagreement. Such relativism turns on a form of epistemic incommensurability whereby a dispute between truth - seekers with opposing beliefs cannot satisfactorily be resolved by (epistemically) rational means. Wittgenstein's writings on epistemology - particularly in his final work, On Certainty - are of relevance to this problem. On the one hand, one can read him as putting forward an epistemological proposal, one that has the notion of a "hinge proposition" at its heart, which actually licenses epistemic incommensurability, and hence epistemic relativism. On the other hand, there are also suggestions in Wittgenstein's writings on this topic that may offer a resolution to this problem.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA companion to relativism
EditorsSteven D. Hales
Place of PublicationChichester, West Sussex, UK
PublisherWiley-Blackwell, Wiley
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781444392487
ISBN (Print)9781405190213
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameBlackwell companions to philosophy
PublisherWiley-Blackwell Publishing


  • Adam's adversary, "Eve" - acquiring her belief about the age of the earth from studying relevant areas of science at school
  • Distinctive problem, raised by epistemology of disagreement - relevant to discussion of epistemic relativism
  • Epistemic relativism, epistemic incommensurability and Wittgensteinian epistemology
  • Epistemology of disagreement - disputes of the sort that concern us
  • From epistemology of disagreement - to epistemic relativism
  • Specifically epistemic form of relativism
  • Wittgenstein's argument for hinge propositions - entailing epistemic incommensurability thesis
  • Wittgenstein's writings on epistemology
  • Wittgensteinian epistemology and epistemic relativism
  • Wittgensteinian epistemology reconsidered


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