Online Encyclopedia

RELATIVITY OF KNOWLEDGE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 58 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RELATIVITY OF KNOWLEDGE, a philosophic term which was much used by the philosophers of the middle of the 19th century, and has since fallen largely into disuse. It deserves explanation, however, not only because it has occupied so large a space in the writings of some great British thinkers, but also because the main question for which it stands is still matter of eager debate. We get at the meaning of the term most easily by considering what it is that " relativity " is opposed to. " Relativity " of knowledge is opposed to absoluteness or positiveness of knowledge. Now there are two senses in which knowledge may claim to be absolute. The knower may say, " I know this absolutely," or he may say, "I know this absolutely." With the emphasis upon the " know " he asserts that his know-ledge of the matter in question cannot be affected by anything whatever. " I know absolutely that two and two are four " makes an assertion about the knower's intellectual state: he is convinced that his certain knowledge of the result of adding two to two is independent of any other piece of knowledge. With
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