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Summary Internal realism was a position held between approximately 1977--90 by Hilary Putnam. This involved rejecting the "God's Eye Point of View", that Putnam thought was characteristic of metaphysical realism. For Putnam, internal realism always involved a commitment to the idea that truth is (somehow) epistemically constrained, and to (some version of) conceptual relativism. Certain positions adopted by other authors, which involve some commitment to one or both of these ideas, are sometimes also characterised as varities of internal realism.        
Key works Putnam's first statement of internal realism is in 'Realism and Reason' (1977) his address to the APA. Here he presented both his model-theoretic arguments against metaphysical realism, a thumbnail of the brain-in-vat argument, and various reflections on conceptual relativism. Both this work and the (more technical) 'Models and Reality' (1980) emphasised the importance of "verificationist semantics". In Reason Truth and History (1981), Putnam developed internal realism in great detail, and probed the significance of his viewpoint for ethics and the philosophy of mind. This drew several famous reactions: Devitt 1983 maintained that internal realism was a version of idealism; and Lewis 1984 maintained that "realism needs realism". Putnam's subsequent defences of internal realism -- including The Many Faces of Realism (1987) and many essays in his Realism with a Human Face (1990) -- suggested a somewhat looser epistemic constraint, and placed the focus more squarely on conceptual relativism. By 1990 Putnam had abandoned internal realism (though not conceptual relativism) in favour of natural realism, a transition he describes in his 'Sense, nonsense, and the senses' (1994). Many of these themes -- including the transitions, and the legacy of internal realism -- are discussed in Button 2013.
Introductions Putnam 1977; Putnam 1980; Putnam 1981 (esp. chs.1-3)
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  1. B. Abbott & L. Hauser, Realism, Model Theory, and Linguistic Semantics.
    George Lakoff (in his book Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things(1987) and the paper "Cognitive semantics" (1988)) champions some radical foundational views. Strikingly, Lakoff opposes realism as a metaphysical position, favoring instead some supposedly mild form of idealism such as that recently espoused by Hilary Putnam, going under the name "internal realism." For what he takes to be connected reasons, Lakoff also rejects truth conditional model-theoretic semantics for natural language. This paper examines an argument, given by Lakoff, against realism and MTS. (...)
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  2. Paul Abela (1996). Putnam's Internal Realism and Kant's Empirical Realism. Idealistic Studies 26 (1):45-56.
    This paper challenges Putnam's claim that his internal realism is a revival of Kant's empirical realism. I agree with Putnam that there are good reasons to revive Kant's rather neglected empirical realist doctrine. However, internal realism is not the way this should be done. At the center of the following discussion lies the important difference between Putman's "real within a scheme" model and Kant's assertion of the independent existence of empirical objects. The strategy for the paper is as follows. I (...)
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  3. Valer Ambrus (1999). Is Putnam's Causal Theory of Meaning Compatible with Internal Realism? Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 30 (1):1-16.
    Putnam originally developed his causal theory of meaning in order to support scientific realism and reject the notion of incommensurability. Later he gave up this position and adopted instead what he called ‘internal realism’, but apparently without changing his mind on topics related to his former philosophy of language. The question must arise whether internal realism, which actually is a species of antirealism, is compatible with the causal theory of meaning. In giving an answer I begin with an analysis of (...)
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  4. David L. Anderson (1992). What is Realistic About Putnam's Internal Realism? Philosophical Topics 20 (1):49-83.
    Failure to recognize the "realistic" motivations for Putnam's commitment to internal realism has led to a widely shared misunderstanding of Putnam's arguments against metaphysical realism. Realist critics of these arguments frequently offer rebuttals that fail to confront his arguments. Simply put, Putnam's arguments --the brains in a vat argument as well as the model-theoretic argument -- are "reductios" that are intended to show that "metaphysical realism itself is not sufficiently realistic". If that claim can be substantiated then Putnam can go (...)
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  5. Yemima Ben-Menahem (2005). Putnam on Skepticism. In Hilary Putnam. Cambridge University Press 125--55.
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  6. Paul Benacerraf (1985). Skolem and the Skeptic. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 59:85-115.
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  7. Simon Blackburn (1994). Enchanting Views. In Peter Clark & Bob Hale (eds.), Reading Putnam. Blackwell 12--30.
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  8. Manuel Bremer (2008). Internal Realism. In P. Hannah (ed.), An Anthology of Philosophical Studies.
    This essay characterizes a version of internal realism. In §1 I will argue that for semantical reasons we should be realists of a strong kind. In §2 I plead for an internalistic setting of realism starting from the thesis that truth is, at least, not a non-epistemic concept. We have to bear the consequences of this in form of a more complicated concept of truth. The ‘internal’ of ‘internal realism’ points to the justification aspect of truth. The ‘realism’ of ‘internal (...)
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  9. Manuel Bremer (1999). Truth In Internal Realism. In Julian Nida-Rümelin (ed.), Rationality, Realism and Revision.
    This essay deals with the concept of truth in the context of a version of internal realism . In §1 I define some variants of realism using a set of realistic axioms. In §2 I will argue that for semantical reasons we should be realists of some kind. In §3 I plead for an internalistic setting of realism starting from the thesis that truth is, at least, not a non-epistemic concept. We have to bear the consequences of this in form (...)
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  10. Curtis Brown (1988). Internal Realism: Transcendental Idealism? Midwest Studies in Philosophy 12 (1):145-155.
    Idealism is an ontological view, a view about what sorts of things there are in the universe. Idealism holds that what there is depends on our own mental structure and activity. Berkeley of course held that everything was mental; Kant held the more complex view that there was an important distinction between the mental and the physical, but that the structure of the empirical world depended on the activities of minds. Despite radical differences, idealists like Berkeley and Kant share what (...)
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  11. Tim Button (forthcoming). Brains in Vats and Model Theory. In Sanford Goldberg (ed.), The Brain in a Vat. Cambridge University Press
    Hilary Putnam’s BIV argument first occurred to him when ‘thinking about a theorem in modern logic, the “Skolem–Löwenheim Theorem”’ (Putnam 1981: 7). One of my aims in this paper is to explore the connection between the argument and the Theorem. But I also want to draw some further connections. In particular, I think that Putnam’s BIV argument provides us with an impressively versatile template for dealing with sceptical challenges. Indeed, this template allows us to unify some of Putnam’s most enduring (...)
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  12. Tim Button (2014). Reading Putnam, Edited by Maria Baghramian. Mind 123 (490):569-575.
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  13. Tim Button (2013). The Limits of Realism. Oxford University Press.
    Tim Button explores the relationship between words and world; between semantics and scepticism. A certain kind of philosopher—the external realist—worries that appearances might be radically deceptive; we might all, for example, be brains in vats, stimulated by an infernal machine. But anyone who entertains the possibility of radical deception must also entertain a further worry: that all of our thoughts are totally contentless. That worry is just incoherent. We cannot, then, be external realists, who worry about the possibility of radical (...)
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  14. Tim Button (2010). Dadaism: Restrictivism as Militant Quietism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 110 (3pt3):387-398.
    Can we quantify over everything: absolutely, positively, definitely, totally, every thing? Some philosophers have claimed that we must be able to do so, since the doctrine that we cannot is self-stultifying. But this treats restrictivism as a positive doctrine. Restrictivism is much better viewed as a kind of militant quietism, which I call dadaism. Dadaists advance a hostile challenge, with the aim of silencing everyone who holds a positive position about ‘absolute generality’.
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  15. Rudolf Carnap (1950). Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology. Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4 (2):20--40.
  16. Jennifer Hegglin Case (1995). Putnam's "Pluralistic Realism": An Exposition and Defense. Dissertation, Washington University
    Philosopher Hilary Putnam maintains that a classical form of realism and a countervailing antirealist tendency are the components of an entrenched philosophical dichotomy. The dichotomy's realist component is metaphysical realism: its antirealist component is relativism. Within the context of a critique of this entrenched dichotomy, Putnam develops a philosophical picture that he has called 'internal realism'. ;Putnam's development of his philosophical picture may be regarded as consisting of a negative program and a positive program. This bifurcation does not correspond to (...)
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  17. R. Corvi (2005). Internal Realism and Rationality in the Thinking of Hilary Putnam. Rivista di Filosofia Neo-Scolastica 97 (3):473-496.
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  18. Lieven Decock (2014). Review of Tim Button's The Limits of Realism. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (01.07).
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  19. Massimo Dell’Utri (1990). Choosing Conceptions of Realism: The Case of the Brains in a Vat. Mind 99 (393):79--90.
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  20. Michael Devitt (1991). Aberrations of the Realism Debate. Philosophical Studies 61 (1-2):43--63.
    The issue of realism about the physical world is distinct from the semantic issue of correspondence truth. So it is an aberration to identify the two issues (Dummett), to dismiss the realism issue out of hostility to correspondence truth (Rorty, Fine), to think that that issue is one of interpretation, or to argue against realism by criticizing various claims about truth and reference (Putnam, Laudan). It is also an aberration to identify realism with nonskepticism, truth-as-the-aim-of-science, or scientific convergence. Realism is (...)
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  21. Michael Devitt (1984). Review of Putnam's Realism, Truth, and History. [REVIEW] Philosophical Review 93 (2):274--7.
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  22. Michael Devitt (1983). Realism and the Renegade Putnam: A Critical Study of Meaning and the Moral Sciences. Noûs 17 (2):291-301.
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  23. Gary Ebbs (1992). Realism and Rational Inquiry. Philosophical Topics 20 (1):1-33.
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  24. Brian Ellis (1988). Internal Realism. Synthese 76 (3):409 - 434.
    I argue in this paper that anyone who accepts the ontology of scientific realism can only accept a pragmatic theory of truth, i.e., a theory on which truth is what it is epistemically right to believe. But the combination of realism with such a theory of truth is a form of internal realism; therefore, a scientific realist should be an internal realist. The strategy of the paper is to argue that there is no adequate semantic or correspondence theory of truth (...)
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  25. Arthur Fine (1984). And Not Anti-Realism Either. Noûs 18 (1):51-65.
    This paper develops lines of criticism directed at two currently popular versions of anti-realism: the putnam-rorty-kuhn version that is centered on an acceptance theory of truth, and the van fraassen version that is centered on empiricist strictures over warranted beliefs. the paper continues by elaborating and extending a stance, called "the natural ontological attitude", that is neither realist nor anti-realist.
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  26. Arthur I. Fine (1984). The Natural Ontological Attitude. In J. Leplin (ed.), Scientific Realism. University of California Press 261--77.
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  27. Janet Folina (1995). Putnam, Realism and Truth. Synthese 103 (2):141--52.
    There are several distinct components of the realist anti-realist debate. Since each side in the debate has its disadvantages, it is tempting to try to combine realist theses with anti-realist theses in order to obtain a better, more moderate position. Putnam attempts to hold a realist concept of truth, yet he rejects realist metaphysics and realist semantics. He calls this view internal realism. Truth is realist on this picture for it is objective, rather than merely intersubjective, and eternal. Putnam introduces (...)
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  28. Gábor Formi (1996). Internal Realism, Metaphysical Realism, and Brains in a Vat. Dialectica 50 (4):259-274.
    The paper explores the relationship between skepticism on the one hand and the metaphysical realist and the internal realist conceptions of truth on the other. After a brief description of the metaphysical realist and the internal realist positions, it is argued that the former but not the latter is committed to an important sort of skepticism, namely, that we might be wrong about practically everything at the same time. First an abstract argument is presented to this effect, then the issue (...)
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  29. Gabor Forrai (2002). Review of Hilary Putnam: Pragmatism and Realism. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews--Online.
    The book is an outgrowth of a 1998 conference held at the Nicholas Copernicus University in Toru (Poland), for which Hilary Putnam was the keynote speaker. It contains eleven papers with responses by Putnam, and is divided into two parts, one on pragmatism and one on realism. Each part is prefaced by a short and well-focused introduction by Urszula M. Zeglen, which may be useful for those who did not keep up with the development of Putnam’s thought since the late (...)
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  30. Gábor Forrai (2001). Reference, Truth and Conceptual Schemes a Defense of Internal Realism.
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  31. Gabor Forrai (1993). A Defense of Internal Realism: Reference, Truth and Conceptual Schemes. Dissertation, University of Notre Dame
    The purpose of the dissertation is to defend and elaborate on internal realism, a doctrine first put forward by Hilary Putnam. Chapter 1 surveys the current philosophical conceptions of truth and reference, a necessary background for the ensuing discussion. Chapter 2 explains the metaphysical realism vs. internal realism controversy. Internal realism is construed as consisting of three theses: the ontological mind-dependence of the world, verificationism about truth , and conceptual relativism . Chapter 3 offers an internal realist account of reference. (...)
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  32. Bas C. Van Fraassen (1997). Putnam's Paradox: Metaphysical Realism Revamped and Evaded. Noûs 31:17 - 42.
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  33. J. P. M. Geurts & J. Van Brakel (1988). Internal Realism, Truth and Charity. Dialectica 42 (1):37-44.
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  34. Peter J. Graham (2002). Review of Gabor Forrai, Reference, Truth and Conceptual Schemes: A Defense of Internal Realism. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2002 (2).
    Gabor Forrai has written a very clear and articulate defense of internal realism, the view that the categories and structures of the world are a function of our conceptual schemes. Internal realism is opposed to metaphysical realism, the view that the world’s structure is wholly independent, both causally and ontologically, of the human mind. For the metaphysical realist, the world is one thing and the mind is another. For the internal realist, on the other hand, though the world is causally (...)
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  35. Bob Hale & Crispin Wright (1997). Putnam's Model-Theoretic Argument Against Metaphysical Realism. In Bob Hale & Crispin Wright (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Language. Blackwell 427--57.
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  36. Carsten Hansen (1987). Putnam's Indeterminacy Argument: The Skolemization of Absolutely Everything. Philosophical Studies 51 (1):77--99.
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  37. Victoria S. Harrison (2006). Internal Realism and the Problem of Religious Diversity. Philosophia 34 (3):287-301.
    This article applies Hilary Putnam’s theory of internal realism to the issue of religious plurality. The result of this application – ‘internalist pluralism’ – constitutes a paradigm shift within the Philosophy of Religion. Moreover, internalist pluralism succeeds in avoiding the major difficulties faced by John Hick’s famous theory of religious pluralism, which views God, or ‘the Real,’ as the noumenon lying behind diverse religious phenomena. In side-stepping the difficulties besetting Hick’s revolutionary Kantian approach, without succumbing to William Alston’s critique of (...)
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  38. Carolyn G. Hartz (1991). What Putnam Should Have Said: An Alternative Reply to Rorty. [REVIEW] Erkenntnis 34 (3):287--95.
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  39. Larry Hauser, Realism, Model Theory, and Linguistic Semantics.
    George Lakoff (in his book Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things (1987) and the paper "Cognitive semantics" (1988)) champions some radical foundational views. Strikingly, Lakoff opposes realism as a metaphysical position, favoring instead some supposedly mild form of idealism such as that recently espoused by Hilary Putnam, going under the name internal realism." For what he takes to be connected reasons, Lakoff also rejects truth conditional model-theoretic semantics for natural language.
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  40. Eli Hirsch (2002). Quantifier Variance and Realism. Philosophical Issues 12 (1):51-73.
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  41. Christopher Hookway (1995). Review of Putnam's Words and Life. [REVIEW] Philosophy 70 (273):460--3.
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  42. Terence Horgan (1991). Metaphysical Realism and Psychologistic Semantics. Erkenntnis 34 (3):297--322.
    I propose a metaphysical position I call 'limited metaphysical realism', and I link it to a position in the philosophy of language I call 'psychologistic semantics'. Limited metaphysical realism asserts that there is a mind-independent, discourse-independent world, but posits a sparse ontology. Psychologistic semantics construes truth not as direct word/world correspondence, and not as warranted assertibility (or Putnam's "ideal" warranted assertibility), but rather as 'correct assertibility'. I argue that virtues of this package deal over each of the two broad positions (...)
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  43. Terry Horgan & Mark Timmons (2002). Conceptual Relativity and Metaphysical Realism. Noûs 36 (s1):74-96.
    Is conceptual relativity a genuine phenomenon? If so, how is it properly understood? And if it does occur, does it undermine metaphysical realism? These are the questions we propose to address. We will argue that conceptual relativity is indeed a genuine phenomenon, albeit an extremely puzzling one. We will offer an account of it. And we will argue that it is entirely compatible with metaphysical realism. Metaphysical realism is the view that there is a world of objects and properties that (...)
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  44. Michael Hymers (2003). Putnam and the Difficulty of Renouncing All Theory. International Studies in Philosophy 35 (4):55-82.
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  45. Gary Iseminger (1988). Putnam's Miraculous Argument. Analysis 48 (4):190--5.
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  46. J. Van Brakel J. Geurts (1988). Internal Realism, Truth and Charity. Dialectica 42 (1):37-44.
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  47. Jeffery L. Johnson (1991). Making Noises in Counterpoint or Chorus: Putnam's Rejection of Relativism. [REVIEW] Erkenntnis 34 (3):323--45.
    Putnam's internal realism entails the simultaneous rejection of metaphysical realism and (anything goes or total or cultural) relativism. Putnam argues, in some places, that relativism is self-contradictory, and in others, that it is self-refuting. This paper attempts the exegetical task of explicating these challenging arguments, and the critical task of suggesting that a full-blown epistemological relativism may be capable of surviving the Putnam attack.
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  48. Wolfgang Künne (2002). From Alethic Anti-Realism to Alethic Realism. In James Conant & Urszula Żegleń (eds.), Hilary Putnam: Pragmatism and realism. Routledge 144--65.
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  49. Wolfgang Künne (2002). Two Principles Concerning Truth. In Randall E. Auxier & Lewis Edward Hahn (eds.), The Philosophy of Michael Dummett. Open Court 317--44.
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  50. Mark Lafrenz, Kant and Putnam: Internal Realism and Truth.
    I provide in this paper an examination of the influence of Immanuel Kant on the internal realist Hilary Putnam. I begin by discussing Putnam’s transition from external, or metaphysical, realism to internal realism, and argue in favor of the view that Kant is best understood as an internal realist. Where Putnam is concerned, I am interested here only in his versions of external and internal realism and not with his more recent views. Having laid out a case for internal realism, (...)
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