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Title: Logical relativism: logic, grammar, and arithmetic in cultural comparison
Authors: Greiffenhagen, Christian
Sharrock, Wes
Issue Date: 2006
Publisher: © The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for Literature and Science
Citation: GREIFFENHAGEN, C. and SHARROCK, W., 2006. Logical relativism: logic, grammar, and arithmetic in cultural comparison. Configurations, 14 (3), pp.275-301.
Abstract: Logical relativism is the claim that different cultures may think according to different logical laws. For example, it is often argued that whereas ‘we’ (Westerners) operate according to the law of the excluded middle, ‘they’ (e.g., the Chinese or the Azande) may not. In this article, we question whether logical relativism is an empirical thesis, i.e., a thesis that is substantiated through anthropological examples. We distinguish two forms of logical relativism, both of which try to account for alleged contradictions in the beliefs of other cultures. The ‘alternative logic’ approach suggests that contradictions only appear if we judge beliefs according to classical logic, but do not exist if we judge them according to an alternative (non-standard) logic. The ‘symmetric treatment’ suggests that whether there is a contradiction or not is itself a culture-specific matter, such that what may be a contradiction ‘for them’ may not be a contradiction ‘for us’ and vice versa. We question whether either of these arguments really involves relativism and show that problems arise in the treatment of the examples, firstly, in terms of questionable preconceptions made about the status of logic as a standard of comparison and, secondly, in the ways in which relevant beliefs are formulated.
Version: Accepted for publication
DOI: 10.1353/con.0.0016
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/14206
Publisher Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/con.0.0016
ISSN: 1063-1801
Appears in Collections:Published Articles (Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies)

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