Real

Mind 75 (300):501-515 (1966)
Abstract
Philosophers have often sought criteria for a general distinction between appearance and reality. In chapter VII of Sense and Sensibilia, J. L. Austin claims to show that this enterprise is radically misconceived; and, characteristically, he bases his argument on the niceties of the use of ‘real’ in English. I shall try to show (1) that Austin’s account of how ‘real’ is used is muddled and inaccurate; and (2) that the uses of ‘real’ which Austin explores are irrelevant to the traditional enquiry into the distinction between appearance and reality. Of these, (2) matters more, but most of my paper will treat of (1). The uses of ‘real’ which interested Austin may have some philosophical importance, so we might as well get them right. Also, although there are general grounds for denying that those uses are relevant to traditional epistemology, a tighter and more Austinian argument for the same conclusion can be based upon a correct account of the uses of ‘real’ in question. I should concede that I may have stated my thesis a little too strongly: for all I know, some philosophers may have pursued the traditional enquiry in such a miserably inadequate way that Austin’s points about the use of ‘real’ are, when suitably emended, effective against them. The fact that Austin did not publish Sense and Sensibilia suggests that he was not satisfied with its contents. Nevertheless, his views about the use of ‘real’ have been published and may be believed: personal considerations cannot be allowed to disarm criticism. I shall describe four ways of using ‘real’ in expressions of the form ‘a real F’ where ‘F’ stands for a general noun. Note the indefinite article: Austin writes as though nothing turns on the choice between ‘a real . . .’ and ‘the real . . .’, but this is not so. I shall argue that these four ways of using ‘real’ are distinct, though a single use of ‘real’ may partake of more than one of them. I believe but cannot prove that my four headings cover practically all idiomatic uses of the form ‘a real F’ other than the metaphorical, slipshod or pretentious..
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