Truth and Relativism

Course summary

Truth and Relativism


Relativism comes in many varieties, from some that sound like common sense to others that sound wildly paradoxical. If you believe it is 4 pm, and your friend in France says it is 5 pm, you wouldn’t take it amiss – aren’t truths about time always relative to time-zones? Nor would you think it odd if your friend insists sardines are tasty, though you loathe them: aren’t truths about personal preferences always relative to individuals? Some people even advocate global relativism, according to which all truth — even in science — is relative to a point of view. For most people, that is going too far. Moral relativism insists that truth about what is right or wrong is relative to a moral framework. Do we need such relativism to avoid dogmatism and intolerance? But is relativism self-defeating? During this weekend we shall be discussing these issues with two philosophers with a long-term interest in them. There will be plenty of time for discussion with other participants and with the speakers.

Programme details


2.45pm Course Registration

3.00pm Intractable disagreements and the allure of relativism

4.30pm Tea / coffee

5.00pm Truth, falsity, and disagreement

6.30pm Break / bar open

7.00pm Dinner

8.15pm- The depth and shallows of our differences


8.15am Breakfast (residents only)

9.30am Judgements of value and taste

10.45am Coffee / tea

11.15am Q & A
Questions directed by MARIANNE TALBOT

12.30pm Break / bar open

1.00pm Lunch

2.00pm Course disperses

Recommended reading

Baghramian, Maria., Relativism (Routledge), 2004 ISBN: 9780415161503
Williamson, Tim., Tetralogue (OUP) 2015 ISBN: 9780198728887
Boghossian, Paul., Fear of Knowledge (OUP) 2007 ISBN: 9780199230419
Tim talking about Tetralogue:
Entry on Relativism from the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy:


Accommodation for this weekend is at Rewley House for Saturday night only.
Depending on availability it may also be possible to extend your stay, please enquire at the time of booking for availability and prices.
All bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.
Unfortunately it is not yet possible to book twin room accommodation online, so if you wish to book a twin room, please send in your completed enrolment form or contact the Day & Weekend Events Office, Email:; Telephone: + 44 (0) 1865 270380 / 270368.


includes coffee/tea: £76.50
Single B&B Saturday: £72.60
Single Room Only Saturday: £62.00
Twin B&B Saturday (per person): £52.10


If you are in receipt of a state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Ms Marianne Talbot

Director of Studies

Marianne Talbot B.A., B.Phil., has been Director of Studies in Philosophy at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education since 2001. She has written several of Oxford’s popular short online courses on Philosophy, and her podcasts (notably on critical reasoning) have been downloaded over 5 million times. Marianne specialises in logic, ethics and the philosophy of mind. The topic of knowledge is her particular current interest.  


Professor Maria Baghramian


Maria Baghramian is Professor of American Philosophy at University College Dublin, Ireland. She has published books and articles on relativism, pluralism, and contemporary American philosophy. She was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2010 and was a Fulbright Scholar in Harvard in 2014. She is the founder and co-president of the Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP) – Ireland, and a Principal Investigator of “When Experts Disagree” (WEXD), an interdisciplinary research project funded by the Irish Research Council.

Professor Timothy Williamson


Timothy Williamson has been the Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford University since 2000. Before that he was Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at Edinburgh University, a Lecturer in Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin and a Fellow of University College Oxford. He has held visiting positions at MIT, Princeton, Michigan, Yale, the Australian National University, the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), UNAM (Mexico), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the author of Identity and Discrimination, Vagueness, Knowledge and its Limits, The Philosophy of Philosophy, Modal Logic as Metaphysics, and many academic articles. He has written for a more general readership in the Times Literary Supplement, The Philosophers’ Magazine, the New York Times philosophy blog The Stone, and in his recent book Tetralogue: I’m Right, You’re Wrong.