Review of Drew Khlentozos' Naturalistic Realism and the Antirealist Challenge [Book Review]

Drew Khlentozos’ Naturalistic Realism and the Antirealist Challenge is a meticulous introduction and roadmap to the core arguments of the contemporary realism/antirealism debate. It has several features that I especially admire. The book is carefully argued and for the most part clearly written. Rare among recent writers in Anglo-American philosophy, Khlentzos is a charitable reader of his opponents and earnestly endeavors to present their views as clearly and generously as possible. This generosity and thoroughness are also the book’s main fault, as it is long (weighing in 408 pages) and sometimes plodding. In a few cases Khlentzos’ charity is overly generous. This seems to me to be the case, for example, with some of his contortions on behalf of Dummett, not least of which being a lengthy chapter on how intuitionism drives Dummett’s antirealism that probably should have been an appendix. But these are drawbacks that we can all live with—especially for the purpose of graduate teaching, for which this monograph is well suited. Naturalistic Realism and the Antirealist Challenge begins (Section I) by setting out the realist/anti-realist debate. Khlentzos argues that the kinds of metaphysical realists who have been quickest to shrug off semantic arguments against realism are particularly susceptible to those arguments. Specifically, naturalistic realists—among whom Khlentzos counts himself—cannot dismiss critiques like those from Dummett and Putnam merely by observing that realism is a metaphysical rather than semantic or epistemic doctrine. The trouble is, “If the world is as resolutely mind-independent as the realist makes out, then there is a problem about how we get to know about it in the first place” (4). Khlentzos calls this the representation problem, saying.
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