AA 2005 Supplementum 2

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  • ItemOpen Access
    Relativity and relativism: historical and systematic considerations
    (University of the Free State, 2005) Strauss, Danie
    English: A brief overview of the emergence of the relativistic challenge to the so-called “exact” natural sciences, such as mathematics and physics, is followed by an analysis of the crisis that Husserl experienced in questioning rationalism. Against the background of a systematic distinction between modal laws and type laws, the pervasive influence of modern nominalism is identified as the root cause of the problems of relativism as it opened the way to the so-called Copernican turn in epistemology. The crucial and constant conditions required in every assertion of relativity are highlighted, particularly with regard to the foundational role of logical discernment in respect of language use and the impossibility of affirming change and relativity outside or independent of a context of constancy, taking into account the philosophical implications of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. Against this background, the “(onto-)logic of relativism” is assessed and a brief characterisation is given of the fact that modern humanism has merely reified humanity’s accountable freedom to give shape to underlying (ontic) principles in various (historically changing) circumstances.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Relativism in national higher education policy documents: what is a university?
    (University of the Free State, 2005) Lategan, Laetus
    English: Several national higher education policy documents have been published over the past ten years. In spite of the impact of these documents on universities, nowhere do they deal critically with what a university is and what precise aspects of that identity should change. It is important to know what a university is since universities may be expected to undertake tasks which are not necessarily typical. The article points out that the process by which technikons were renamed universities of technology is the best example of relativism in higher education policy documents dealing with the concept of a university.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Rediscovering engagement after Descartes — phenomenology, Macmurray, and the primal world-view
    (University of the Free State, 2005) Balcomb, Tony
    English: Philosophy in the tradition of Kant and Descartes is characterised by disengagement and objectification. But the rationalist world-view of Descartes and Newton has been challenged from within by the focus on engagement and personification in the work of philosophers such as Macmurray and those in the phenomenological tradition such as Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. This challenge may be indicative of a paradigm shift within modernity. In a manner reminiscent of an African world-view, Macmurray attempts to reinstate relationism, while the phenomenologists propose a similar emphasis on immediate, sensuous appreciation of, and engagement with, the environment. The African world-view is distinctly similar to those proposed by Macmurray and the phenomenologists.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The application of philosophical tools to the theme of relativity and relativism
    (University of the Free State, 2005) Visagie, Johann
    English: This article initially describes a specific conception of philosophical tools — models of coherence at various levels and in different contexts of philosophical analysis. The overall purpose is to apply some of these tools to the theme of relativity and relativism. The first tool tested in this way will be the key formulas of philosophical discourse, with special reference to Derrida and deconstruction. Then the perspectives offered on the theme by various other tools will be explored. The article concludes with some remarks on spirituality and relativity, as well as the possibility of a future relativity.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Cultural relativism and cultural absolutism
    (University of the Free State, 2005) Wallner, Fritz
    English: Cultural relativism suffers from two flaws: a logical flaw and a conceptual one. The logical flaw relates to the differentiation between the absolute mind and the relative mind. This means that the assumption of the cultural dependency of science implicitly always presupposes an absolute truth which is independent of culture. The second flaw is the conceptualisation of culture as a kind of cage from which nobody is able to escape. To avoid these two errors and to define relativism without relinquishing the commitment to science, the author presents the concept of “constructive realism” which is able to resolve both these problems.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The relative and the absolute in Merleau-Ponty’s account of the “spoken word”
    (University of the Free State, 2005) Wait, Eldon
    English: Merleau-Ponty’s general position transcends the traditional distinction between the absolute and the relative. The “lived world” is absolute in the sense that it is the ultimate context within which we are able to render intelligible the behavioural and perceptual powers of an individual, yet the lived world is relative to the individual. The difficulty in transcending the traditional distinction lies in the very nature of thought itself and, consequently, in the central assumption of Western philosophy, for which the ultimate perspective is that of the universal thinker. By means of reflection on the experience of speech addressed to us, and through an analysis of the syndrome of semantic aphasia, I will corroborate Merleau-Ponty’s claim that meaning is “incarnate” in the linguistic gesture, and argue against the notion of the philosopher as a universal thinker. I will argue that the ultimate perspective is not that of the universal thinker but that of the embodied subject, which is in “contact” with others — a contact which is lived but which can never be represented in thought.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The contemporary context of relativity and relativism
    (University of the Free State, 2005) Olivier, Bert
    English: In this paper an analogy is drawn between certain features of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and the model of signification encountered in the work of the post-structuralists Lacan and Derrida. This analogy pivots on an achievement that is common to Einstein’s theory and the (post-)structuralist model of the sign, namely the subversion of the conceit of having access to something “absolute” — an “absolute” spatiotemporal vantage point in the case of Einstein, and “absolute” (immediate, fully present) meaning in the case of Derrida and Lacan. To be able to demonstrate this, the functionings of the structuralist “sign” and its radicalised post-structuralist counterpart are contrasted with the traditional referential model of meaning, while Einstein’s Special Theory is scrutinised with a view to establishing a basis for comparison with post-structuralist semiotics.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The aporetic interweaving of relativity and relativism in Derrida’s thinking
    (University of the Free State, 2005) Hurst, Andrea
    English: The connection between relativity and relativism both clarifies and is clarified by Derrida’s thinking. To show this, I shall first associate each term with compatible Derridean terms. “Economy”, “structure”, “problem” and “the possible”, related to relativity, match counterparts related to relativism, namely “aneconomy”, “freeplay”, “aporia” and “the impossible”. Next, the conjunction suspended between these constellations will be addressed by asking whether a Derridean account of this connection would be unambiguously antinomial, dialectical, or diacritical. These “logics” are worked through to show that Derrida’s thinking does not “fall from the sky” but remains in critical dialogue with the philosophical tradition. Derrida, however, uncovers the workings of another “logic” that acknowledges an inescapable paradox in the conjunction between relativity and relativism, to which one could assign the nickname “quasi-transcendental”.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Contingency and universality in the Habermas-Rorty debate
    (University of the Free State, 2005) Van Niekerk, Anton
    English: In this article the debate between Habermas and Rorty on the issue of relativism is discussed critically. Developments in Rorty’s position are pointed out, for example his current acceptance of the epithet “relativist” as opposed to his earlier rejection of this self-description in view of his denial that a pragmatist such as himself has any, even a relativist, epistemology. Attention is also paid to Rorty’s current denial of the relevance of the idea of “metaphors of making rather than finding” for this debate, against his earlier espousal of this distinction. His main effort is to create a vocabulary that might transcend the obsolete distinctions of “Platonism” such as truth-falsity, rational-irrational and subjective-objective. On the other hand, there is Habermas’s unmasking of the undeniable and unavoidable performative contradiction in Rorty’s work, as well as his argument that Rorty fails to develop a new vocabulary, but rather succumbs to the well-known Social Darwiniansm of the nineteenth century. The author shows why Habermas emerges from this debate much better than Rorty.
  • ItemOpen Access
    A critique of historicism
    (University of the Free State, 2005) Clouser, Roy
    English: In this paper I consider some of the basic tenets of classic historicism as developed by thinkers such as Dilthey and Spengler, and find serious incoherencies with it as an epistemology. I then inquire as to whether this theory fares better when combined with pragmatism and the “linguistic turn”, as advocated by Richard Rorty, and find that his proposal merely compounds the incoherencies rather than solves them.