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with funding provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, presents

Dpartment de la Philosophie, lUniversit de Paris Ouest/Nanterre


Tuesday December 2, 12:30-2:00pm, Peterson Hall, Room 116, 3460 rue McTavish

Abstract: My aim is to interrogate the assumption that relativity undermines the very idea of truth.
But I am not so much interested in arguing in favour of what I will call the relativist thesis that there is
no ultimate criteria of what is right and wrong, but only a plurality of assessments of the right and the
wrong depending on conditions which cannot be
themselves assessed from an impartial standpoint. I
am more interested in arguing that the relativist
postulate, far from dismissing the very idea of
knowledge, is, on the contrary, an instrument for
the production of a certain form of knowledge:
comparative anthropological knowledge. I will
argue that relativism is not so much an
epistemological thesis as a methodological
postulate, and I must confess immediately that I am
more interested in the productivity of such a
postulate in terms of its consequences than in its
intrinsic absolute validity or in the question of
whether the consequences themselves can be
proved to be absolutely valid. I will be happy if I
find a standard of assessment of the right and the
wrong which results uniquely from the assumption
that there is nothing but a variation of assessments
of the right and the wrong. But it must be said from
the beginning that I will argue that relativism is not
the idea that truths are relative to different
contexts which would exist in themselves and be independent, but rather the redefinition of
everything that seems to be, and in particular of these contexts, in terms of how they relate to one
another and can be seen as variants of one another. I would like to call this form of relativism
affirmative or active relativism, and oppose it to what could be called negative or reactive relativism.
Patrice Maniglier is the author of La vie nigmatique des signes: Saussure et la naissance du
structuralisme, La Perspective du Diable: Figurations de lespace et philosophie de la Renaissance
Rosemarys Baby, and, with Marcela Iacub, Antimanuel dducation sexuelle. He is also the editor of
the collected volume Le Moment Philosophique des annes 60 en France and a member of the
editorial board of Les Temps Modernes.

[lunch/refreshments provided]