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Belief that human judgments are always conditioned by the specific social environment of a particular person, time, or place. Cognitive relativists hold that there can be no universal knowledge of the world, but only diverse interpretations of it. Moral relativists hold that there are no universal standards of moral value, but only the cultural norms of particular societies.

Recommended Reading: Robert Kirk, Relativism and Reality: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge, 1999) {at}; Larry Laudan, Science and Relativism: Some Key Controversies in the Philosophy of Science (Chicago, 1990) {at}; Ernest Gellner, Relativism and the Social Sciences (Cambridge, 1987) {at}; Moral Relativism: A Reader, ed. by Paul K. Moser and Thomas L. Carson (Oxford, 2000) {at}; James Kellenberger, Moral Relativism, Moral Diversity, and Human Relations (Penn State, 2001) {at}; Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth (Cambridge, 1991) {at}; and Christopher Norris, Against Relativism: Philosophy of Science, Deconstruction, and Critical Theory (Blackwell, 1997) {at}.

Also see IEP, SEP on relativism and moral relativism, Hugh LaFollette, and ISM.


Fourteenth-, fifteenth- and sixteenth-century European intellectual movement characterized by rejection of scholastic authority, renewed interest in classical antiquity, and excitement about the prospect of achieving scientific knowledge. Prominent Renaissance thinkers include Lorenzo Valla, Marsillio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Desiderius Erasmus, Thomas More, Giordano Bruno, and Francisco Suarez.

Recommended Reading: Cambridge Translations of Renaissance Philosophical Texts, ed. by Jill Kraye (Cambridge, 1998) {at}; Paul Oskar Kristeller, Renaissance Thought and Its Sources (Columbia, 1981) {at}; The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. by Charles B. Schmitt, Quentin Skinner, and Jill Kraye (0521397480) {at}; and Renaissance Philosophy of Man: Petrarca, Valla, Ficino, Pico, Pomponazzi, Vives, ed. by Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller, and John H. Randall (Chicago, 1956) {at}.

Also see IEP, ColE, and Österreich-Lexikon.

replacement, rules of

Tautologies that express the logical equivalence of pairs of elementary statement forms, each of whose substitution instances may be used to replace those of the other wherever they occur within a formal proof of the validity of a deductive argument. The rules of replacement that we employ here include:

  1. De Morgan's Theorems,
  2. Commutation,
  3. Association,
  4. Distribution,
  5. Double Negation,
  6. Transposition,
  7. Implication,
  8. Equivalence,
  9. Exportation, and
  10. Tautology.
These, taken together with the nine rules of inference, adequately secure the completeness of the propositional calculus.


Theory of perception according to which we are aware of objects only through the mediation of the ideas that represent them. Descartes and Locke were both representationalists. Although it handily accounts for perceptual illusion and memory, such a theory often leads (as in Hume) to skepticism about the existence of external objects.

Recommended Reading: Robert Audi, Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge (Routledge, 1998) {at}; Hilary Putnam, Representation and Reality (MIT, 1991) {at}; Richard A. Watson, Representational Ideas: From Plato to Patricia Churchland (Kluwer, 1995) {at}; Michael Huemer, Skepticism and the Veil of Perception (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001) {at}; Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, 1981) {at}; and Ray Jackendoff, Languages of the Mind: Essays on Mental Representation (MIT, 1995) {at}.

Also see ISM, SEP, and DPM.

res cogitans / res extensa

Descartes's Latin distinction of the two major ontological categories comprising reality: thinking things and extended things, or minds and bodies.

Recommended Reading: René Descartes, Meditationes De Prima Philosophia / Meditations on First Philosophy (Bilingual Edition), ed. by George Heffernan (Notre Dame, 1990) {at}.

Also see Max Velmans.

Residues, Method of

One of Mill's Methods for discovering causal relationships. If portions of a complex phenomenon can be explained by reference to parts of a complex antecedent circumstance, whatever remains of that circumstance may be inferred to be the cause of the remainder that phenomenon.

Example: "The old prescription contained vitamins A, B-12, and C, and taking it regularly improved night vision, reduced stress, and prevented colds. The new prescription contains calcium along with vitamins A, B-12, and C, and taking it regularly improves night vision, reduces stress, prevents colds, and increases bone density. Therefore, taking calcium regularly increases bone density."

Recommended Reading: John Stuart Mill, System of Logic (Classworks, 1986) {at}.


Accountability for the actions one performs and the consequences they bring about, for which a moral agent could be justly punished or rewarded. Moral responsibility is commonly held to require the agent's freedom to have done otherwise.

Recommended Reading: John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza, Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility (Cambridge, 2000) {at}; Peter A. French, Responsibility Matters (Kentucky, 1994) {at}; Marion Smiley, Moral Responsibility and the Boundaries of Community: Power and Accountability from a Pragmatic Point of View (Chicago, 1992) {at}; and Hans Jonas, The Imperative of Responsibility (Chicago, 1985) {at}.

Also see SEP and Michael McKenna.

Ricoeur, Paul (1913- )

French philosopher and theologian. Influenced by the work of Husserl and Marcel, Ricoeur's Le Volontaire et l'involontaire (Freedom and Nature) (1950) {at} analyzes human volition into decision, movement, and consent—each of which is to be understood in relation to an involuntary analogue. L'Homme faillible (Fallible Man) (1965) {at} and La Symbolique du mal (The Symbolism of Evil) (1967) {at} provide a hermeneutic account of the existence and nature of human evil.

Recommended Reading: A Ricoeur Reader, ed. by Mario J. Valdes (Toronto, 1991) {at}; Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation, tr. by Denis Savage (Yale, 1986) {at}; Paul Ricoeur, Oneself As Another, tr. by Kathleen Blarney (Chicago, 1994) {at}; Paul Ricoeur and Narrative: Context and Contestation, ed. by Joy Morny (Calgary, 1997) {at}; Charles E. Reagan, Paul Ricoeur: His Life and His Work (Chicago, 1998) {at}; Ricoeur as Another: The Ethics of Subjectivity, ed. by Richard A. Cohen and James L. Marsh (SUNY, 2002) {at}; John B. Thompson, Critical Hermeneutics: A Study in the Thought of Paul Ricoeur and Jurgen Habermas (Cambridge, 1984) {at}; and The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, ed. by Lewis Edwin Hahn (Open Court, 1994) {at}.

Also see SEP, Jane Chamberlain, BIO, and Pamela Anderson.

Riemann, Georg Friedrich Bernhard (1826-1866)

German mathematician and physicist. Riemann developed field theory as a mathematical description of phenomena as apparently diverse as gravitation, magnetism, electricity, and light and contributed to the development of topology and non-Euclidean geometry.

Recommended Reading: Bernhard Riemann, Gesammelte Mathematische Werke, Wissenschaftlicher Nachlass & Nachtrage: Collected Papers (Springer Verlag, 1998) {at}; Detlef Laugwitz, Bernhard Riemann, 1826-1866: Turning Points in the Conception of Mathematics, tr. by Abe Shenitzer (Springer Verlag, 1999) {at}; and Krzysztof Maurin, The Riemann Legacy: Riemannian Ideas in Mathematics and Physics (Kluwer, 1997) {at}.

Also see MMT, WSB, ColE, Dan Bucsescu, and BIO.


Justified expectations about the benefits other people or society ought to provide. We are entitled to our rights in the sense that others have a moral obligation to respect them. At an individual level, my duty to act toward you in a certain way entails your corresponding right to my performance of that action.

Recommended Reading: Judith Jarvis Thomson, The Realm of Rights (Harvard, 1992) {at}; Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously (Harvard, 1978) {at}; W. D. Ross, The Right and the Good (Hackett, 1988) {at}; Rights, Wrongs and Responsibilities, ed. by Matthew H. Kramer (Palgrave, 2001) {at}; A. John Simmons, Justification and Legitimacy: Essays on Rights and Obligations (Cambridge, 2001) {at}; and John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights (Clarendon, 1980) {at}.

Also see IEP, Noam Chomsky, SEP on civil rights and human rights, Vasil Gluchman, Ruth Miller Lucier, Morton Winston, and Vicente Barretto.

rigid designator

An expression that refers to the same thing in every possible world. According to Saul Kripke, proper names and terms that signify natural kinds (unlike definite descriptions) designate rigidly, so that we can make counterfactual assertions about their referents whether or not they exist in our world.

Recommended Reading: Saul A. Kripke, Naming and Necessity (Harvard, 1982) {at} and The New Theory of Reference - Kripke, Marcus, and Its Origins, ed. by Paul W. Humphreys and James H. Fetzer (Kluwer, 1999) {at}.

Also see SEP and Mar Johnston.

Ritchie, David George (1853-1903)

Scottish idealist philosopher. Ritchie is usually remembered for his political thought, and primarily for his analysis of natural rights and for his criticisms of the positions of Herbert Spencer and J.S. Mill on the nature and role of the state in The Principles of State Interference (1891) and Natural Rights (1895). Ritchie is also known for his attempts to reconcile Darwinism and idealist thought in Darwinism and Politics (1889) and Darwin and Hegel with Other Philosophical Studies (1893). [Contributed by Will Sweet.]

Recommended Reading: The Collected Works of D. G. Ritchie, ed. by Peter Nicholson (Thoemmes, 1998) {at}.

Rohault, Jacques (1620-1672)

French philosopher and physicist; author of System of Natural Philosophy (1667) {at}. As a follower of Descartes, Rohault argued that animal behavior can be explained in purely mechanistic terms. But, unlike many of his fellow Cartesians, he held that in human beings, the mind and the body participate in reciprocal relations of genuine causal interaction.

Rorty, Richard (1931- )

American philosopher; author of Consequences of Pragmatism (1982) {at} and Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989) {at}. Extolling the critical work of Dewey, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein, Rorty attacked the foundationalist presumptions of traditional epistemology in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979) {at}, proposing instead a postmodern conception of philosophical method as edifying discourse. Rorty's philosophical papers are collected in Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth {at}, Essays on Heidegger and Others {at}, and Truth and Progress {at}.

Recommended Reading: Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope (Penguin, 2000) {at}; Reading Rorty: Critical Responses to Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and Beyond, ed. by Alan Malachowski (Blackwell, 1990) {at}; Rorty & Pragmatism: The Philosopher Responds to His Critics, ed. by Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr. (Vanderbilt, 1995) {at}; Rorty: And His Critics, ed. by Robert B. Brandom (Blackwell, 2000) {at}; Alan Malachowski, Richard Rorty (Princeton, 2002) {at}; David L. Hall, Richard Rorty: Prophet and Poet of the New Pragmatism (SUNY, 1994) {at}; Recovering Pragmatism's Voice: The Classical Tradition, Rorty, and the Philosophy of Communication, ed. by Lenore Langsdorf and Andrew R. Smith (SUNY, 1995) {at}; and Rorty, ed. by Matthew Festenstein and Simon Thompson (Polity, 2001) {at}.

Also see SEP, ColE, BIO, Bjørn Ramberg, and ELC.

Ross, William David (1877-1971)

British moral philosopher who also produced valuable translations of the philosophical works of Aristotle. In The Right and the Good (1930) {at} Ross criticized the ethical theory of Moore and offered in its place an intuitionist theory giving central importance to the possession of prima facie moral duties to perform certain actions.

Recommended Reading: W. David Ross, Foundations of Ethics (Oxford, 2000) {at}.

Also see IEP and J. R. Lucas.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1712-1778)

Swiss political philosopher who held that the citizens of the state form a collective body ruled only by the general will that arises from each and applies to all, resulting in a perfect freedom and equality.

For a discussion of his life and works, see Rousseau.

Royce, Josiah (1855-1916)

American philosopher. Royce's subtle reasoning in defence of absolute idealism in The Religious Aspect of Philosophy (1885) and The World and the Individual (1901) {at} fostered (in opposition) the development of pragmatism by James.

Recommended Reading: The Philosophy of Josiah Royce (Hackett, 1982) {at}; Josiah Royce, The Spirit of Modern Philosophy (Dover, 1983) {at}; Josiah Royce, Metaphysics, ed. by William Ernest Hocking and Frank Oppenheim (SUNY, 1998) {at}; Josiah Royce: Selected Writings, ed. by John E. Smith and William Kluback (Paulist, 1988) {at}; John Clendenning, The Life and Thought of Josiah Royce (Vanderbilt, 1998) {at}; and Griffin Trotter, On Royce (Wadsworth, 2001) {at}.

Also see Philosophers' Web, BIO, and ColE.

Ruddick, Sara Loop (1935- )

American philosopher. In Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace (1989) {at}, Ruddick argues that focus on preserving, fostering, and training children has a transformative effect on moral judgment and practice. People who empathize with others, teach the need for interpersonal respect, and aim for reconciliation, she argues, can be freed from the violent effects of (masculine) human aggression.

Recommended Reading: Mother Troubles: Rethinking Contemporary Maternal Dilemmas, ed. by Julia E. Hanigsberg, Sara Ruddick, and Amy Caldwell (Beacon, 1999) {at}.

rule utilitarianism

View that an action is right provided that good consequences would follow if everyone acted in the same way; see act / rule utilitarianism.

Recommended Reading: John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism and Other Essays, ed. by Alan Ryan (Viking, 1987) {at} and J. J. C. Smart and Bernard Williams, Utilitarianism: For and Against (Cambridge, 1973) {at}.

Russell, Bertrand (1872-1970)

English mathematician and philosopher whose work ranged widely, including attention to formal logic and the philosophy of mathematics, epistemology and metaphysics, and vigorous commitment to unpopular political causes.

For a discussion of his life and works, see Russell.

Ryle, Gilbert (1900-1976)

British philosopher. Ryle proposed a philosophical method of dissolving problems by correctly analyzing inappropriate uses of language. By this means, he identified a category mistake at the heart of Cartesian dualism and defended linguistic behaviorism in its place.

For a discussion of his life and work, see Ryle.


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Last modified 7 August 2002.
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