Tuesday, February 21, 2006

tonight's quotation

From a conversation between John Bova and Bruno Latour:
JB: You've written (in Reassembling the Social) that "sociology must become fully relativist...."

BL: "Relativism" is typically used as a term of abuse in the social sciences, as when it's pronounced by the former Cardinal Ratzinger...

JB: those remarks about the "dictatorship of relativism"?

BL: Right. What relativism means for most people in the social sciences is the absolutism of a point of view, the right of everyone to impose his own point of view without having to relate. But this way that most people use the word "relativism" is exactly the opposite of what the word means! Deleuze defined my way of understanding the word "relativism" very well when he said that relativism is not the relativity of truth but the truth of relation. And that is how the term is used in the sciences. In science, relativity indicates the possibility of shifting points of view, of going from one point of view to another, and establishing some sort of connectedness. So while people still use "relativity" as a term of abuse, there is no reason to be intimidated by idiots who use the term stupidly. It's the perfect term to indicate exactly what it means, and that's establishing metrics, allowing shifts in points of view. So the idea of relativism is not vry contentious; it has simply become contentious because of this way that fundamentalists are using the term. But the opposite of relativism is just absolutism. Who wants to be absolutist?

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