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Relationalism is any theoretical position that gives importance to the relational nature of things. For relationalism, things exist and function only as relational entities. Relationalism may be contrasted with relationism, which tends to emphasize relations per se.

Relationalism (philosophical theory)

Relationalism in a broader sense applies to any system of thought that gives importance to the relational nature of reality. But in its narrower and philosophically restricted sense as propounded by the Indian philosopher Joseph Kaipayil[1][2][3] and others, relationalism refers to the theory of reality that interprets the existence, nature, and meaning of things in terms of their relationality or relatedness. On the relationalist view, things are neither self-standing entities nor vague events but relational particulars. Particulars are inherently relational, as they are ontologically open to other particulars in their constitution and action. Particulars, as relational particulars, are the ultimate constituents of reality. Particulars interact and make the very fabric of reality.

Relationalism (theory of space and time)

In discussions about space and time, the name relationalism (more appropriately called relationism[disambiguation needed]) refers to Leibniz's relationist notion of space and time as against Newton's substantivalist views.[4][5][6] According to Newton’s substantivalism, space and time are entities in their own right, existing independently of things. Leibniz’s relationism, on the other hand, describes space and time as systems of relations that exist between objects.

Relationalism (colour theory)

Relationalism in colour theory, as defended by Jonathan Cohen and others,[7][8] means the view that colours of an object are constituted partly in terms of relations with the perceiver. An anti-relationalist view about colour, on the other hand, would insist colours are object-dependent.[9]

Relationalism (sociological theory)

In relational sociology, relationalism is often contrasted with substantivalism. While substantivalism (also called substantialism) tends to view individuals as self-subsistent entities capable of social interaction, relationalism underscores the social human practices and the individual’s transactional contexts and reciprocal relations. [10]

See also


  1. Kaipayil, Joseph. An Essay on Ontology. Bangalore: JIP Publications, 2008.
  2. Kaipayil, Joseph. Relationalism: A Theory of Being. Bangalore: JIP Publications, 2009.
  3. [1]
  4. Futch, Michael. Leibniz’s Metaphysics of Time and Space. New York: Springer, 2008.
  5. Ray, Christopher. Time, Space and Philosophy. London: Routledge, 1991.
  6. Rickles, Dean. Symmetry, Structure and Spacetime. Oxford: Elsevier, 2008.
  7. Cohen, Jonathan. The Red and the Real: An Essay on Color Ontology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  8. Cohen, Jonathan and Shaun Nichols. “Colours, colour relationalism and the deliverances of introspection." Analysis 70 (2010): 218-228.
  9. Cf. Dimitria, Electra. Color Fictionalism: Color Discourse without Colors. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest Information and Learning Company, 2007.
  10. Emirbayer, Mustafa. “Manifesto for a Relational Sociology.” The American Journal of Sociology 103 (1997): 281-317.

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