Must do better

In Patrick Greenough & Michael P. Lynch (eds.), Truth and Realism. Oxford University Press 278--92 (2006)
Imagine a philosophy conference in Presocratic Greece. The hot question is: what are things made of? Followers of Thales say that everything is made of water, followers of Anaximenes that everything is made of air, and followers of Heraclitus that everything is made of fire. Nobody is quite clear what these claims mean, and some question whether the founders of the respective schools ever made them. But amongst the groupies there is a buzz about all the recent exciting progress. The mockers and doubters make plenty of noise too. They point out that no resolution of the dispute between the schools is in sight. They diagnose Thales, Anaximenes and Heraclitus as suffering from a tendency to overgeneralize. We can intelligibly ask what bread is made of, or what houses are made of, but to ask what things in general are made of is senseless, some suggest, because the question is posed without any conception of how to verify an answer; language has gone on holiday. Paleo-pragmatists invite everyone to relax, forget their futile pseudo-inquiries and do something useful instead.
Keywords Realism-essay
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