What science is not

A few weeks ago, someone in the ELT world tweeted that Salma Patel’s blog, which deals with management of the UK National Health Service, had a post that gave a good, brief summary of research paradigms. I went to the blog and found the post:

The research paradigm – methodology, epistemology & ontology – explained in simple language 

Published in 2015, it’s had 168,622 views so far, and there are dozens of comments at the end thanking Patel for his “clear”, “brilliant”, “superb”, “excellent”, “amazing”, “extremely useful” explanations.

The explanation starts with a summary of the main components of a research paradigm and there is then a video which explains the text. Patel begins by saying that there are two main approaches to research:

  1. Filling knowledge gap: positivist
  2. Problem-solving: interpretive.

He explains:

In the first you read a lot of books …..and you find a gap in the research. ……It is objective. What is the meaning of objective? Reality is external to us – I don’t know the reality. So, I propose a hypothesis. What is the meaning of a hypothesis? There is a relationship between X and Y, or not. That’s it.

In the second, you identify a problem, you ask “Why?”. There is no single reality so we have to look at reality from different perspectives, understand different characters, different people, .. So there’s no reality here. That’s why we have to go ourselves into the organisation and talk to people.

So there you have it: scientific, quantitative research is most suitable for research projects which seek to fill a knowledge gap, while qualitative research (which assumes that there’s no such thing as objective reality) is the best way to go about problem solving.

Scientific research is, of course, nothing like Patel’s description of it. Nor is positivism what Patel says it is, and nor does his chart present a reliable or useful guide to research projects.

The aim of scientific research is, precisely, to solve problems, or, to put it another way, to explain phenomena. The collection of empirical data, the organisation of taxonomies, etc. are carried out not for their own sakes but in the service of an explanatory theory. Hypotheses are the beginning of attempts to solve problems and should lead to theories that explain a certain group of phenomena. The aim is to unify descriptions and low-level theories into a general causal theory.

SLA research carried out under the umbrella of cognitive science adopts these aims and methods, and although far from achieving any general theory, it still has some claim to be part of what Kuhn calls a mature science tradition. In contrast, the sort of work Patel encourages falls, at best, into Kuhn’s “immature science” bag, in the ‘pre-paradigm’ period. It’s clear from the literature that some sociologists and sociolinguists want no part of the scientific enterprise, but Patel’s biased and distorted description of different approaches to research fails to properly explain either the realist or the relativist case. In order to provide newcomers with a clear, balanced, well informed introduction to research methodology, I think Patel needs a better grasp than he shows of the philosophy of science, the history of western philosophy, and how evidence-based research is conceived and conducted.

In response to information given to me by Steve Brown, Carol Goodey and others earlier this year, I wrote a post on Research Paradigms where I commented on the way that various influential sociology departments have developed their own particular post-Khunian narrative concerning how research is carried out. I said at the time that I was really surprised to learn how widely these daft notions of ‘positivism’ and ‘research paradigms’ had spread, but I find the fact that Patel’s post has reached over 160,000 grateful post graduate students quite shocking. Did nobody catch so much as a whiff of baloney? Nobody took the trouble to, ahem, deconstruct the text?

A more respectable version of Patel’s presentation can be found in Scotland (2012), which is cited, but it’s hardly any better. In the end, we can trace most of this “revised”, post-Kuhnian treatment of paradigms back to Lincoln and Guba (1985) who proposed a “Constructivist paradigm” as a replacement for “the conventional, scientific, or positivist paradigm of enquiry”.  This view is idealist (“what is real is a construction in the minds of individuals”), pluralist and relativist:

There are multiple, often conflicting, constructions and all (at least potentially) are meaningful.  The question of which or whether constructions are true is sociohistorically relative. (Lincoln and Guba, 1985: 85).

Lincoln and Guba assume that the observer can’t and shouldn’t be neatly disentangled from the observed in the activity of inquiring into constructions.  Constructions in turn are resident in the minds of individuals:

They do not exist outside of the persons who created and hold them; they are not part of some “objective” world that exists apart from their constructors (Lincoln and Guba, 1985: 143).

Thus constructivism is based on the principle of interaction.

The results of an enquiry are always shaped by the interaction of inquirer and inquired into which renders the distinction between ontology and epistemology obsolete: what can be known and the individual who comes to know it are fused into a coherent whole (Guba: 1990: 19).

Note that Patel has either overlooked or ignored the fact that, according to the leading lights in his “constructivist paradigm”, the distinction between ontology and epistemology is obsolete. In any case, if you want to find the roots of the full-blown idealist, relativist, pluralist, your-experience-of-me-experiencing-you-experiencing-the-teapot, topsy-turvy, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t world of post-modern sociology, you need look no further than Lincoln and Guba, 1985. And if you want a demonstation of why it’s so much baloney, see Gross & Levitt, 1994; and Sokal & Bricmont, 1998.

Not far behind in terms of culpability for all this mess comes Crotty (1998), whose “seminal work” on research in the social sciences is required reading in thousands of undergraduate and post graduate courses all over the world. Crotty’s work quite wrongly states that positivism started with the work of Francis Bacon, completely misrepresents the work of the positivists themselves, and misrepresents the work of Popper, Kuhn and Feyerabend too. At one point, Crotty says that the real target of Feyerabend’s criticism were “the positivists”, despite the fact that before Feyerabend’s Against Method was published, positivists – scientists and philosophers alike – had thankfully disappeared. I challenge Crotty to find a scientific department in any university anywhere on the planet run by self-proclaimed positivists.

C.P. Snow, in his 1959 lecture, first described the ‘two cultures’ of science and the humanities (see Snow, 1993), since when the gap has widened considerably. Eleven years ago, Gregg (2006) noted that in the field of SLA, a look at the ‘applied linguistics’ literature

turns up doubts about the value of controlling for variables (Block, 1996), reduction of empirical claims to metaphors (Schumann, 1983; Lantolf, 1996), mockery of empirical claims in SLA as ‘physics envy’ and denials of the possibility of achieving objective knowledge (Lantolf, 1996), even wholesale rejection of the values and methods of empirical research (Johnson, 2004). Although the standpoints are various, one common thread unites these critiques: a fundamental misunderstanding of what science, and in particular cognitive science, is about (see, e.g. Gregg et al., 1997; Gregg, 2000; 2002).

Today, blogs and twitter exchanges abound with references to white coats, laboratory conditions and the other trappings of so-called positivists (including Chomsky of course) who, it’s claimed, fail to make any connections with the real world, even though, ironically enough, they’re the only ones who believe in such a thing. In my own case, in exchanges with Marek Kiczkowiak of TEFL Advocates about the existence (or not) of native speakers, I refer to the “sociolinguistic twaddle that obfuscates a simple  psychological reality”, while he refers to “the fantastic beast the NS has become in theoretical linguistics and SLA labs”. I’d say that in this case it’s Kiczkowiak who shows a typically depreciating and ignorant attitude towards SLA cognitive research, while I limit myself to the claim that regardless of how difficult it might be for sociolinguists to decide who belongs to what social group, there are such things as native speakers, and it is the case (a case worth researching) that most people who learn a L2 fall short of native competence. But then, I would say that, wouldn’t I.

Patel’s post is more evidence of the need to remain critical in our reading and thinking about our profession. There are so many examples of low standards of scholarship, rational criticism and intellectual honesty in the work of those who do research and teacher training that we need to be constantly on our guard. Down with baloney!



Crotty, M. (1998) The Foundations of Social Research: Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process. London, Routledge.

Gregg, K. R. (2006) Taking a social turn for the worse: the language socialization paradigm for second language acquisition. Second Language Research 22, 4; pp. 413–442.

Gross, P.R. and Levitt, N. (1994) Higher superstition: the academic left and its quarrels with science. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lincoln,Y. & Guba, R. (1985) Naturalistic Enquiry. Newbury Park; Sage.

Scotland, J. (2012) Exploring the philosophical underpinnings of research: Relating ontology and epistemology to the methodology and methods of the scientific, interpretive, and critical research paradigms. English Language Teaching, 5(9), pp.9–16.

Snow, C.P. (1993) The two cultures. Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

Sokal, A.D. and Bricmont, J. (1998) Intellectual impostures. London, Verso.


17 thoughts on “What science is not

  1. I’d say that in this case it’s Jordan who shows a typically depreciating and ignorant attitude towards sociolinguistics research, while I limit myself to the claim that while there might be a clear difference between ‘native’ and ‘non-native speakers’ as established by SLA researchers, in real world, outside of an SLA experimental conditions, this difference becomes blurry, ideological and subjective, especially as far as ELT is concerned. Id also add that it’s the SLA twaddle and Jordan’s insistence on limiting the discussion to SLA, ignoring findings from other fields, that obfuscates the complicated, but fascinating sociolinguistic reality.
    PS I might be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever written what you attribute to me in the quote. More like a paraphrase that…


    1. I’ve just gone back to your post where you insist that there’s no difference between NSs and NNSs. In the Comments section, you get involved in an exchange with Hugh Dellar, but, strangely, you didn’t reply to his last comment – see below.

      HUGH DELLAR May 22, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      So just to check I’ve got it now . . . there’s no definitive difference between ‘natives’ and ‘non-natives’. Except when there is. And then that difference, which may include things like not using a third person -s isn’t ‘worse’ than ‘native-speaker English’, it’s simply a manifestation of ELF. So ‘non-natives’ who can and do use things like third-person -s aren’t ‘better’ speakers of English than these other ‘non-natives’. They’re just different. In a similar way to the way that I myself am different to them. And when I speak to a perfectly fluent and competent ‘non-native’ like you I’m using ELF because you don’t identify as ‘native’, but if I was to write this comment to, say, Gavin Dudeney, that wouldn’t be ELF because English isn’t a lingua franca for the two of us. Have I got it yet?


      1. Geoff, seriously – I don’t insist there’s no difference. I insist that the difference is fuzzy, subjective and ideological, especially as far as ELT is concerned.
        As far as Hugh’s comment is concerned, I’m not sure why you bring it up. It’s true I didn’t reply to it. I can’t remember why now. The most likely reason is that I didn’t notice it at the time. There were a lot of comments on this post, and there are several daily on other posts on TEFL Equity Advocates, on social media, on the online courses, etc. While I do my best to answer every comment, I might miss some.
        I could answer the comment here, but I’m not sure how it would move the discussion forward. I doubt you and I will ever agree on this issue. I’ve tried to engage in a dialogue, but in your blog post replies you’ve never even attempted to look at the issue from a more sociolinguistic perspective, nor have you addressed the main argument I presented in the blog post, which is again NOT that there is no difference between ‘native’ and ‘non-native speakers’, but that this difference from a sociolinguistic standpoint is subjective, fuzzy and ideological. I agree that there might be a difference as far as psycholinguistic research is concerned. However, this is just one small part of the puzzle, which you seem to disagree with,or at least seem to ignore any sociolinguistic research that might contradict your views.
        So, I really doubt my replying to Hugh’s comments, or writing another blog post explaining the issue further will move the debate forward.


      2. I think Hugh Dellar’s comment highlghts your inability to give a clear answer to his questions.

        Further, as Patrick points out, you create more confusion than light by your repeated assertion that the difference between NSs & NNSs is ‘blurry’ (or ´fuzzy’),’ideological’, and subjective’.

        And let me say one more time:
        1. I support your just fight against discrimination of “NNSTs” in ELT.
        2. I agree with those who say that we should use the terms “L1 speaker” and “L2 speaker” wherever possible.
        3. I’m not interested in a lot of what passes for research in what you call the complex, and fascinating world of sociolinguistics.
        4. The only reason I commented on your original post was that in it you made sweeping assertions about there being no real distinction between the two terms NS and NNS, and that you agreed with Holliday’s rants about neo-racism.

        My one and only, very simple point, throughout, has been that there is a clear and real distinction between NSs and NNSs in studies on, for example, putative sensitive periods in SLA. That’s all!


      3. You can think whatever pleases you regarding my lack of reply to Hugh’s comment. Whether this reflects the reality is a different kettle of fish.
        Fair enough. That’s your opinion. Just so you know, though, there are numerous researchers who ‘create confusion’ in a similar way. Not that it matters, because you’re uninterested in such research.
        1. Great. Thanks.
        2. I’d agree here, although I tend to use ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ in inverted commas.
        3. I’m sorry to say this, but it shows in your complete failure to engage with the arguments I gave in the blog post, or with Holliday’s research. It’s probably another good reason why I see little point in discussing this issue further with you.
        4. I didn’t make sweeping assertions. I supported my arguments with research evidence. I never referred to Holliday’s ‘rant’ about neo-racism in that blog post either. I’d really suggest that sometimes you reread your own posts and comments to check you’re criticising people for things they actually did.
        As for your position on the issue, the way it’s presented here, I’d be inclined to agree with it. However, this wasn’t how you’ve presented it previously.
        In any case, I see no point discussing this further since you’re not interested in the research you so vehemently criticise. Enjoy the rest of your day and good luck with your critical endeavours. If I don’t reply to your possible reply to this, please don’t blame it on my inability to answer your doubts about my ideas. That won’t be the reason.


      4. One of the things that puts me off Marek Kiczkowiak’s blogs and comments is that he sounds more like a politician with views about teaching and research than a teacher and researcher with views about politics. He starts out as a man on a mission – stop discrimination against NNESTs – and then gathers bits of evidence and argument, much of it coming from post modernist sociologists and sociolinguistics whose baffling relativist views defy rational evaluation. Discussing the NS / NNS issue with him is like discussing things with a politician, where getting at the truth seems like a secondary issue.

        In his discussion with Hugh Dellar about NSs /NNSs on his blog, he failed to make a coherent case for his badly-articulated views, as Dellar makes clear. Note his reply here: he sounds like a politician. Note, similarly, his reply to Patrick’s criticisms.

        When I say that I’m not interested in the work of self-confessed relativists in the field of sociolinguistics (a position I’ve explained and defended at length in many posts on this blog), Kiczkowiak says that this shows my failure to engage with his arguments or with Holliday’s research. In fact, I failed to engage with his arguments because, as I made clear, they were irrelevant. My argument was that however morally offensive, murky, fuzzy, subjective, and ideologically-charged their use in sociolinguistics might be, the terms NS and NNS were clearly used in real studies of SLA. Period. Furthermore, I replied to his “Fantastic Beasts” post in my post “Of native speaker denial” (https://criticalelt.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/of-native-speaker-denial/), where I dealt with all the issues he raised about the SLA research that I’d previously mentioned. After lots of ifs and buts, Kiczkowiak has finally stopped protesting against my original – and only – claim about the use of the terms NS and NNS in certain types of SLA studies.

        As for my not engaging with “Holliday’s research”, Holliday didn’t cite any research, either his or anyone else’s. Which is hardly surprising: What research could he offer to support his incoherent assertion that “native-non-native speaker labels …. bring with them references to culture that evoke images of deficiency or superiority – divisive associations with competence, knowledge and race – who can, who can’t, and what sort of people they are”?

        Next, Kiczkowiak protests that he made no sweeping assertions and supported his arguments with research evidence. In fact, in his posts, tweets and comments, he claims that the NSs and NNSs are “fantastic beasts”, and that the differences are fuzzy, ill-defined, subjective, imagined, abstract, theoretical, ideological, and refuted by as many studies as supported them.

        Finally, I didn’t mean to suggest that Kiczkowiak had referred to Holliday’s rant about neo-racism in his blog post. The sentence reads: “The only reason I commented on your original post was that in it you made sweeping assertions about there being no real distinction between the two terms NS and NNS, and that you agreed with Holliday’s rants about neo-racism”. I should have written “… and that you had agreed elsewhere with Holliday’s rants …”. That part of the sentence was referring to his “like” and tweets about Holliday’s rant, not to Kiczkowiak’s blog post, but it was badly-written.


  2. hi Geoff
    this diagram (there is a fuller one linked in post) of C.S. Peirce’s classification seems handy [http://andrewgelman.com/2017/11/29/expediting-organised-experience-statistics/]


  3. Hi Marek, i am very interested in this debate but am concerned that confusion is created by gathering adjectives together in triads. That the difference between NS & NNS is ‘blurry’, that it is ‘ideological’, and that it is ‘subjective’ are surely three separate claims. One or more of them may be true whilst the others false. I have pointed out to Geoff that some adult language learners acheive levels of competence extremely hard to distinguish from that of a ‘native speaker’ and he has acknowledged that this is the case but pointed out in response that those who are exposed to a language in early childhood unfailingly acheive the high level of competence that we call ‘native’ or ‘native-like’ whereas comparable levels of attainment in those who have similar levels of exposure in later life is far from guaranteed (indeed is, as we all know, the exception rather than the rule). This is a real difference, isn’t it, and one that researchers should have the terminology to be able to discuss, shouldn’t they?


  4. You quote the Sokal book Geoff, and I have a few comments.

    I think for Sokal, and others, to accuse Bruno Latour of being a relativist – ie someone who things that nothing is more important than anything else – is a false claim.

    The reason I say this is that you cannot at once accuse someone of being a relativist – and then also accuse of them of being an absolutist (that there are standards against which things can be judged).

    Latour is accused of being a relativist by many, yet he is also attacked for being religious – Catholic – people say that his religious affiliations colour his theories and explanations. Here’s one example of an accusation from Radical Philosophy: (https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/commentary/bruno-latours-anthropology-of-the-moderns)

    ‘Consequently, this is my hypothesis: Latour’s basic and formative concern is religion (that is, Roman Catholicism), and his peculiar style and genre are consistent with this concern, as a crucial part of his attempt to avoid an analytic critique of religion. A ‘flat’ interaction, focusing on immediate experiences, is a way of avoiding sociological (or psychological) explanations of religious phenomena, and thereby avoiding that kind of criticism of religion which stems from Marx and Freud, as well as from the radicalism of the youth movement in the 1970s. Suggestively repetitive, conceptually vague, and characterized by a blend of inclusive reasonableness and aggressive confrontations, Latour’s is a style that is unusual for academic work but that is common in the realms of both politics and religion.’

    I don’t necessarily agree with this critique of Latour – BUT I don’t think it’s accusing him of relativism, rather that his moral absolutism attempts to foreclose critiques of religion made by Marx and Freud, as I see it. I mean he’s religious, he believes in God, he thinks some things are sacred (like the Earth – see his lectures on ‘Gaia’ http://www.bruno-latour.fr/node/693).

    So you simply can’t have two criticisms active at the same time – one has to be false. (That’s ‘science’…) He’s not a relativist IMHO, and he’s a sophisticated thinker, and a wonderful writer.

    Also I don’t think in any way Latour’s work is an attack on science – he simply wants – through a process of problematization – to make science more aware of itself, its limitations and its dark corners. Which I don’t think is a bad thing.

    Philosopher Graham Harman also defends Latour much better than I can in his book ‘Prince of Networks’, see Chapter 2, Science in Action. (http://www.re-press.org/book-files/OA_Version_780980544060_Prince_of_Networks.pdf)


    1. Hi Paul,

      I cited Sokal and Bricmont (1998) Intellectual Imposters rather off the cuff, as a book I remember doing a good quick hatchet job on some of the leading relativists back then. I’ve just got it down from the shelves, and have it in front of me: Chapter 6 Bruno Latour.

      Before that, in Chapter 4, Sokal & Bricmont mention Latour’s Science in Action in their general discussion of the philosophy of science. They begin by defining relativism as any philosophy that claims that the truth or falsity of a statement is relative to an individual or a social group. They distinguish between cognitive (true/false assertions), ethical (good/bad), and aesthetic (beuatiful/ugly) relativism and concentrate on the first type. They point out that it’s not clear whether Latour is adopting a relativist position or not, but in any case, they reach the conclusion that the assertion Latour makes about science (he outlines 7 Rules of Method) “is either true but banal, or else suprising but manifestly false”. I haven’t read Latour, but Sokal & Bricmont make what looks like a reasonable argument.

      In Chapter 6, Latour’s article on Einstein’s theory of relativity (1988) is discussed. I haven’t read the Latour paper, but, again, the discussion of it seems reasonable to me.

      Socal and Bricmont argue that Latour gets it all wrong. They argue that Latour doesn’t understand the various positions of academics in the philosophy of science debates – between Popper, Khun and Fereyabend, for example. This is an area I know about, and it sounds to me, from what Socal & Bricmont say, that Latour wants to explain not how scientists work as a group, but actually the content of their theories, and that he does a very bad job of it. This is borne out in Chapter 6 where Latour’s paper on Einstein is based on a misunderstanding of the theory itself. If Latour had tried to elucidate the pedagogical and rhetorical strategies Einstein used, well OK, but it seems he tried to show that relativity theory itself is, in his words, “social through and through”.

      Whatever the merits of Sokal and Bricmont’s case against Latour, it seems evident from that last sentence, and other extended quotes in their book, that Latour, from an epistemological perspective, is a relativist. The epistemological perspective is the one that’s interesting when we’re discussing science, and there’s no logical contradiction between being a Roman Catholic who believes in God and at the same time also being a sociologist who claims that Einstein’s general theory of relativity is social. Both Christians and aethesists are to be found in the realist and relativist camps.


      1. What?
        “…and there’s no logical contradiction between being a Roman Catholic who believes in God and at the same time also being a sociologist who claims that Einstein’s general theory of relativity is social. Both Christians and aethesists are to be found in the realist and relativist camps.”

        Hm. I thought that the two would be mutually exclusive–being an (orthodox) Catholic and a relativist.




      2. Hi Thom,

        Why should they be mutually exclusive with regard to matters of fact, which are the matters we’re talking about here? You can believe that God exists, even that the Pope is infallible when pronouncng on matters of faith, and also believe that considerations of socio-historical, psychological and textual contexts are necessary in order to determine accounts of any particular “truth” and “knowledge” claims about the external world.


      3. It seems that

        “…considerations of socio-historical, psychological and textual contexts are necessary in order to determine accounts of any particular “truth” and “knowledge” claims about the external world” is not a line of reasoning marked as relativistic though. I think this is a perfectly sound way of going about establishing the best perception or conceptualization of what the external world might be. There is an external world. There is something true to be known about the external world. Truth exists apart from the observer. Wouldn´t a relativist deny these things?

        I find it hard to believe that a Roman Catholic (practicing, not just by name) could defend the existence of God and at the same time hold on to relativism. Believing in God, the catholic way at least, means that one assigns the observable world to the creative acts of the divinity, no creation–no creator, and that ethical categories are defined and not constructed.

        Just what the category of “matters of faith” entails upon which the Pope could make infallible pronouncements escapes me. The poor man fails all the time. Matters of faith, to me, have to resist the same analytical scrutiny as matters of fact.




      4. Hi Thom,

        Yes, relativists would deny that “There is an external world. There is something true to be known about the external world. Truth exists apart from the observer”. They would say that different socio-historical, psychological and textual contexts give different accounts of any particular claims about the external world and there’s no “objective” way of deciding which of them is “true” or “false”.

        I don’t know what practicing RCs would have to say about matters of faith but I don’t think they would feel bound to see God’s creation through any particular epistemological lens, specially not realism. God’s creation is difficult to understand, they might say; He left it up to us to make what we can of it.


  5. I just don’t think he’s a relativist in the way that you and Sokal describe – Sokal et.al are straw-manning.

    I mean Latour himself goes to great length to criticise existing ‘relativisms’ which are not the same as Sokal’s: Absolute relativism, Cultural relativism, Particularism. (From We Have Never Been Modern p103-106)

    Absolute relativism. Absolute relativism presupposes independent and unmeasurable cultures without any hierarchy…Just like the universalists, the absolute relativists are convinced of the necessity of an absolute reference point make a comparison between cultures. But unlike the universalists, they can’t find an absolute reference point, hence they can’t compare anything.

    Cultural relativism. Cultural relativists pay attention towards nature, but nature is that what lies behind our deforming and distorting glasses. The rationalists will focus on the commonness of the underlying nature. While relativists will focus on the insurmountable deformation and distortion of the knowledge of nature. This deformation and distortion is the consequence of the social structures and the particular perspective.

    Particularism. This is a particular form of cultural relativism in which one society (Western society) creates a view on nature and all the other societies are situated from this Western nature.

    (Ii’m relying on this summary here: https://philosiful.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/bruno-latour-relativism-part-25/)

    Latour also has his own understanding of ontology and how knowledge is created – epistemology – which puts forward the view that science is a lot messier than supposed.

    I think Latour would say that not only is Sokal’s critique unfounded, but it shows a lack of understanding.


  6. Hi Paul,

    Sokal and Bricmont deal only with those parts of Latour’s work that deal with the domain of scientific enquiry. They argue that Latour misrepresents scientific method, misrepresents Einstein’s work, and takes the relativist view that statements about the physical world are relative to the social group that makes them.

    Your descriptions of Latour’s criticisms of Absolute and Cutural relativism and particularism all sound as if they’re coming from a very relativist perspective!

    Still, thanks for this defence of Latour; you’ve inspired me to take a look.


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