On Wittgenstein, Radical Pluralism, and Radical Relativity


  • Randy Ramal Claremont, California




Radical Pluralism, Radical Relativity, D Z Phillips, Hilary Putnam, Conceptual Relativity, Conceptual Pluralism


In this paper, I introduce the idea of ‘radical relativity’ to elucidate an undervalued justificatory context for Wittgenstein’s affirmation of radical pluralism. I accept D.Z. Phillips’s definition of radical pluralism as the view that certain radical differences between people’s ordinary practices prevent the latter from being reduced to a necessary set of common interests, meanings, or truths. I argue that radical relativity provides this form of pluralism with the logical justification it requires in that it accounts for how pluralism became radical. More specifically, I argue that the contingent, non-causal, and yet non-arbitrary relation between ordinary concepts and the pluralistic world through which they emerge explains the reality of radical pluralism. Radical relativity is suggested in Wittgenstein’s three notions of ‘concept formation’, ‘agreement in reaction’, and ‘world pictures’, I argue, without endorsing traditional forms of relativism. Finally, I show that although D.Z. Phillips and Hilary Putnam promote notions of pluralism indebted to Wittgenstein, neither philosopher utilizes the radical relativity suggested in his work to justify his respective version of pluralism or Wittgenstein’s version of radical pluralism.

Author Biography

Randy Ramal, Claremont, California

 Randy Ramal is an Independent Scholar who taught for several years in either full time or visiting professorship positions at the following universities: University of Zurich, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont School of Theology, University of La Verne, and Pitzer College. Most recently, he was a Visiting Researcher at the Center for Ethics, University of Zurich (2017), and at the Claremont School of Theology (2018). His latest publications involving Wittgenstein include “On How Not to ‘Sublime’ God’s Perfection” (in The Question of God’s Perfection, eds. Yoram Hazoni and Dru Johnson. Brill, 2018) and “On Not Seeing What Lies Open to View in Wittgenstein and Whitehead: A Response to Jerry H. Gill and Richard McDonough” (Process Studies 46.1, 2017, 25–51).